When the police and law enforcement set up a checkpoint, they may be checking for all sorts of traffic violations. Traffic checkpoints and driving while impaired (DWI) checkpoints can check for anything from out-of-date registration to drivers with felony warrants. The courts have determined that traffic checkpoints are generally legal but the way law enforcement conduct a checkpoint may be a violation of a driver's constitutional rights.
Law enforcement in North Carolina regularly set up sobriety checkpoints and traffic violation stops during the summer. This year, multiple agencies announced their DWI and boating while impaired campaign on the four busiest weekends of the summer:
- May 25 to 27
- June 28 to 30
- July 5 to 7
- August 31 to September 2
Traffic Checkpoint on Border With South Carolina
A few weeks ago, the Columbus County Sheriff's Office set up a checkpoint on the state line at the intersection of Hickman Road and Complex Street in Tabor City. On the South Carolina side, South Carolina law enforcement set up another checkpoint. During the operation, officers charged nearly 100 traffic and criminal violations. Fifty-six of the charges were issued on the North Carolina side. Traffic violations included driving without a license, insurance violations, and tag violations. One driver was charged with a DWI and drug possession.
Traffic Checkpoint on the Border With Virginia
Recently, a similar multi-agency DWI checkpoint was set up involving law enforcement in Person County and Virginia law enforcement on the other side of the state border. The checkpoint did not make any DWI arrests but charged a number of other violations, including operating without a license, driving with a revoked license, and expired registration.
DWI Checkpoint in North Carolina
It may not be surprising that these DWI checkpoints do not always result in drunk driver arrests in North Carolina. One of the primary reasons law enforcement use traffic checkpoints is the deterrent effect. This is also why law enforcement generally tell the public about the checkpoint before it begins. When drivers know that the sheriff's department or North Carolina State Highway Patrol is conducting checkpoints, they may be less likely to go out drinking without making a plan for getting home.
Requirements for a DWI Checkpoint in North Carolina
The Supreme Court has ruled that DWI checkpoints are not illegal but they must generally meet certain requirements to ensure a driver's constitutional rights are not violated. Requirements for a valid sobriety checkpoint may include:
- Cars are to be selected using a neutral basis,
- Checkpoints are announced,
- Checkpoints should be set up in a reasonable time and place,
- Checkpoints should be set up in a safe place,
- Supervising officers make operational decisions, and
- Drivers are only to be stopped for a minimal amount of time.
Ticketed or Arrested at a Checkpoint in North Carolina?
Just because you were ticketed or arrested during a traffic stop does not mean you are guilty of a crime. At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped drivers deal with traffic charges and other violations issued during traffic stops and checkpoints in North Carolina. Contact us today for a consultation.