Police officers were given instructions by their sergeant to set up a DWI checkpoint on June 10, 1993 at the corner of 20th Street and Avenue C in Manhattan. At that checkpoint, all passing cars were stopped by the police officer manning the checkpoint. Depending on his observations of the driver of the car stopped at the checkpoint, the police officer would ask the driver to pull over to the side of the road so that the driver can be further questioned by the police.
When the defendant driver came up to the checkpoint, a police officer asked him to stop and to roll down his window. The police officer smelled alcohol on the breath of the driver as soon as he rolled down his window. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the police officer asked the driver to pull over to the side of the road. He then asked the man to exit his vehicle. The accused driver then admitted to the police officer that he had been drinking. The police officer then administered the alcohol breathalyzer test on the accused driver and his blood alcohol level registered at .14. When the results of the breathalyzer test came out, the police officer then arrested the man.
At his arraignment, the driver asked for a hearing to determine whether the police officers had probable cause to stop his vehicle; whether or not the checkpoint was not arbitrary; and whether or not the oral admission made by the accused and the breath test result should be suppressed.
The Court held that as to the setting up of the checkpoint, the law requires that the DWI checkpoint be established and operated in accordance with guidelines. The Court held that all that is required is that the DWI roadblock not be set up in an arbitrary fashion. It is also required that the checkpoint should be operated without any discretion on the part of the police officers manning it.
Here in this case, the police officer who manned the checkpoint testified at the hearing that his sergeant did not tell him the reason why the checkpoint was set up at that corner of 20th Street and Avenue C. But as soon as he was ordered to set it up, he did so and he stopped every car that passed by the corner. All cars were stopped. The police officers inquired from all drivers that passed the checkpoint and observed them for signs of driving while under the influence of alcohol. A New York City Criminal Lawyer said there was very minimal intrusion upon the privacy of the drivers as they were only asked to roll down their car windows for the police officers to see if their eyes were bloodshot and to smell if alcohol was on their breath. Other than this, the drivers were not asked any more.
As to the question of probable cause for the arrest of the driver here, the police officer testified that as soon as the driver drove up to the checkpoint, the police officer shined his flashlight on the driver’s window, knocked on it and asked him to roll it down. The police officer also testified that the smell of alcohol was strong enough for him to detect it as soon as the driver rolled down his window. The police officer also testified that the driver was unsteady on his feet when he was asked to exit his vehicle. The fact that clinched the presence of probable cause was the result of the alcohol breath test. The Court ruled that there was probable cause for his arrest.
As to the admission he made to the police officer at the checkpoint there was no proof that his admission was anything other than spontaneous. He was not under arrest at that time and he volunteered the information.
The motion to suppress is denied.
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