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How DWI Checkpoints Work in New York: Legal Rights and Expectations

Posted by Daniel DuBois | Dec 07, 2023 | 0 Comments

Hello and welcome back to the blog here at Dan DuBois Law. Here on the blog, we like to distribute available information to the public to help educate the populace of WNY. Today, let's go over how DWI checkpoints work in NY. 

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense. Being charged with DWI can result in severe legal and personal consequences. The best way to avoid these consequences is to never drink and drive. However, if you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI, it's imperative you seek legal counsel right away. Remember, the end outcome of your case can be affected by the earliest interactions! 

Understanding DWI Checkpoints in New York

What Are DWI Checkpoints?

The purpose of police in the WNY area performing DWI/DUI checkpoints is to try and catch and prevent impaired motorists from impacting others. Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense and police have an interest in preventing those drivers from potentially causing harm. 

DWI checkpoints are sometimes known as “sobriety checkpoints”, and they're set up so that officers can stop, observe, and test drivers. Past legal decisions govern the nature of these stops. For example: 

  • The checkpoint must be set up for a specific purpose

  • Adequate safety precautions must be met, including proper lighting and warning of its existence 

  • Use of a predetermined random pattern to decide which cars get stopped

  • Drivers must only be stopped for a reasonable amount of time 

  • Not violate the privacy of the driver to a certain degree

  • Have a supervisor oversee the checkpoint 

Also, reasonable safety precautions must be met so that drivers can stop or move through the checkpoint. Plus, there needs to be some kind of signage informing drivers that there is a checkpoint ahead and they may need to stop. These signs help alert people to the fact that there is a line of cars ahead of them, aiming to prevent accidents from the slower-moving nature of a checkpoint. 

Understanding DWI Checkpoints in New York

In New York, DWI checkpoints are legal and carefully planned. They follow rules set by higher courts to make sure they're fair and don't violate privacy rights too much. Important court decisions have helped shape these rules. These decisions say that while police can set up these checkpoints to catch drunk drivers, they must do so in a way that's fair and doesn't bother drivers too much. The police need to plan these checkpoints carefully, deciding where and when they'll set them up, and they must follow strict guidelines to ensure they treat everyone equally.

Also, it's important that these checkpoints strike a balance. They're there to keep roads safe by stopping drunk driving, but at the same time, they need to respect the rights of drivers. This means not holding up traffic for too long and not being too invasive. New York takes this seriously, aiming to reduce drunk driving while making sure drivers are treated fairly and respectfully.

How Do DWI Checkpoints Operate in NY?

Location and Timing of Checkpoints

Choosing the Spot: The police pick locations for DWI checkpoints based on where they think they can best catch drunk drivers. This often means places where there have been a lot of accidents or reports of drunk driving in the past. The goal is to keep roads safe, so they try to choose spots where they can make the biggest difference.

Picking the Time: The timing of these checkpoints is usually when there's a higher chance of drunk driving – like late at night or during holidays. This is when more people might be drinking and then driving. The police plan these times carefully to catch the most drunk drivers they can.

Procedures at a DWI Checkpoint

As you approach a DWI checkpoint, you'll usually see signs and lights warning you about it. This is to make sure you're not surprised and can slow down safely.

Here's what typically happens when you reach the checkpoint:

  • Brief Stop: You'll be stopped for a short time. Officers will be checking to see if there are any clear signs that you might be driving drunk, like the smell of alcohol or slurred speech.

  • Quick Chat: An officer might ask you a few simple questions, like where you're coming from or if you've been drinking.

  • Possible Tests: If the officer thinks you might be drunk, they may ask you to take a sobriety test. This could be a breath test or physical tests like walking in a straight line.

  • Moving On: If everything seems okay, you'll be allowed to go on your way. If the officer suspects you're drunk, they might take further steps, like arresting you for DWI.

Your Rights at a DWI Checkpoint in New York

Constitutional Rights During a Stop

You have several rights when it comes to sobriety checkpoints in New York. For example, the law enforcement officers must obtain consent before searching your person or vehicle. However, if you turn around or avoid the checkpoint, that can give them probable cause to pull you over. Also as mentioned earlier, the police must stop vehicles in a random, fair pattern. Motorists are required to hand over their licence and registration on request, and many officers may ask the driver to submit a field sobriety test to determine BAC. 

Refusing Sobriety Tests at Checkpoints

Refusing a sobriety test at a DWI checkpoint imposes the same penalties as refusing for a traffic stop. Namely, your license will be revoked as part of New York's “implied consent” law, and you can still be arrested for a DWI due to other factors, like speech slurring or the odor of alcohol. Make sure you have an informed opinion from a New York DWI Defense Attorney on how you should proceed. 

Seeking Legal Help: The Role of a DWI Defense Attorney

When to Contact a DWI Defense Attorney

If you've been stopped at a DWI checkpoint, or if you're facing DWI charges, getting in touch with a defense attorney should be your next move. But when exactly should you make the call? Here's the deal: it's best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. This is especially true if you've been arrested or if you've refused a sobriety test. An attorney can help right from the start, giving you advice on what to say and what not to say, and guiding you through the next steps. Remember, the earlier a lawyer gets involved, the better they can prepare for your defense. It's not just about having someone in your corner; it's about having an expert who knows the ropes.

How a DWI Defense Attorney Can Help

Expert Guidance: A skilled DWI defense attorney, like the top criminal lawyers in Buffalo, NY, brings a wealth of experience to your case. They understand the complexities of DWI laws and how they apply in New York. This means they can spot weaknesses in the prosecution's case that you might not see.

Navigating the System: The legal system can be overwhelming, especially if you're not familiar with it. A good DWI lawyer knows the ins and outs of the court system and can navigate it efficiently, saving you time and reducing your stress.

Negotiating Plea Deals: Sometimes, the best outcome for your case might be a plea deal. Experienced attorneys are often skilled negotiators and can work out a deal that minimizes your penalties.

Trial Preparation: If your case goes to trial, having a seasoned attorney is invaluable. They can prepare a solid defense, challenge evidence, and argue on your behalf effectively.

Protecting Your Rights: Above all, a DWI defense attorney is there to protect your rights. They'll make sure you're treated fairly throughout the process and that your case is presented in the best possible light.

Expert Advice from Top Criminal Lawyers in Buffalo, NY

Insights from NY DWI Lawyers

Breath tests (Also known as chemical tests, blood alcohol test, or breathalyzer) are a cheap and relatively reliable staple on the belts of law enforcement officers. However, they're not infallible and have a margin for error, which can make the “beyond a reasonable doubt” part of securing a conviction more complicated if the result is right on the line. Sometimes the results from an improperly administered test can be thrown out, but that depends on the facts of the specific case at hand.

You want to minimize how much you give the police, who are trying to investigate you for a crime, while also being polite and cordial if you do refuse. A skilled defense attorney can attack this claim of guilty consciousness, spotlighting the need for a legal defense.

Preparing for a DWI Checkpoint: Tips and Best Practices

Do's and Don'ts at a NY DWI Checkpoint


  • Stay Calm and Polite: Keep calm and be respectful to officers.

  • Have Your Documents Ready: Quickly present your license, registration, and insurance when asked.

  • Follow Officer Instructions: If asked to move your car or step out, do so promptly.


  • Avoid the Checkpoint: Turning around can make you a target for police.

  • Argue with Officers: This isn't the time for legal debates.

  • Over-Share Information: Stick to answering the questions asked, nothing more.

  • Drive if You've Drunk Alcohol: Always choose a sober way to travel.

Preventative Measures and Responsible Driving

  • Plan Your Ride Home: Always have a designated driver or use a taxi or ride-sharing service if you've been drinking.

  • Know Your Alcohol Limits: Be aware of how much you can drink before your driving ability is impaired.

  • Stay Informed: Educate yourself and others about the risks of drunk driving.

  • Keep Your Car in Check: Make sure your vehicle's paperwork is up to date and everything is functioning properly.


Reach Out to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in NY Today! 

Facing any charge is a stressful endeavor. If you or someone you know needs a criminal defense attorney, don't hesitate to reach out to DuBois Law. You're innocent until proven guilty.

However, navigating DWI checkpoints in New York can be stress-free if you're prepared and understand your rights. Remember, these checkpoints are not just about enforcing the law; they're also about ensuring everyone's safety on the road. By staying informed and making responsible choices, you contribute to a safer community for all.

Remember to stay up to date with our blog, where we regularly go over these higher-level looks at NY Law, go over the process of arrest, and more. Don't just take our word for it, check out our Recommendations and Google Reviews! Everyone deserves the best representation to prove their side, which is why we have financing plans to be flexible for you.

Save yourself the trouble of searching “best criminal defense lawyers near me,” remember to call Dan DuBois Law at (888)-NT-GULTY [(888) 684-8589] or fill out a contact form. Get your FREE consultation today.

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