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Sergeant selects the spot of checkpoint

The defendant was charged with common-law (DWI) driving while intoxicated in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192 (3) on September 14, 2002 at 12:48 a.m. A New York DWI Lawyer said that, the defendant was arrested after entering a sobriety checkpoint operated by the Webster Police Department on the eastbound section of New York State Route 104 just prior to the Dewitt Road overpass. A Scott hearing was conducted on June 18, 2003 to determine if the sobriety checkpoint was properly conducted.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said that, a 1984 case, established the standards for conducting sobriety checkpoints in the State of New York. More particularly the defense argues that the location of the sobriety checkpoint was not properly selected. In his memorandum of law defense counsel states that “Sergeant small testified that although the police Chief authorized the checkpoint, there was no discussion between himself and the police Chief as to exactly where the checkpoint would be placed. That was left to the unfettered discretion of Sergeant small as supervisor of the checkpoint detail. Sergeant small allegedly selected the location according to the Directive based upon the history of past violations, as well as safety considerations.”

The issues in this case are whether the location of a sobriety checkpoint is based on empirical evidence of prior (DWI) driving while intoxicated arrests; and whether the location of a sobriety checkpoint be specifically authorized by the chief of police.

In his memorandum of law, defendant correctly indicates that the Webster Police Directive issued for September 13, 2002 to September 14, 2002 “states history of past violations was taken into consideration and Sergeant small also testified as such.” However, a review of said paragraph IV of General Order 504 to which that directive is attached.

Nothing in said General Order requires that site selection be based on prior alcohol related arrests or incidents. It would appear that such a consideration is not required by either case law or by general police practice. For example, the Sample Set of Sobriety Checkpoint Guidelines Written for the New York City Police Department, relative to site selection, states: “Since public relations and deterrence are a primary purpose of the checkpoint, the incidence of DWI arrests and accidents is not controlling.” Therefore, the sobriety checkpoint in question cannot be invalidated because of a lack of empirical evidence of prior alcohol related arrests or accidents at that site.

The relevant general order requires that the site of the sobriety checkpoint “must be approved by a supervisor prior to commencing the checkpoint or roadblock.” Sergeant Small of the Webster Police Department testified that he was the road patrol supervisor on the evening/morning the sobriety checkpoint in this case was set up, and which resulted in the arrest of the defendant. Based on the Webster Police Department General Order, Sergeant Small had the requisite authority to set up the roadblock on New York State Route 104 as same came through the Town of Webster by the Dewitt Road overpass. There is nothing in General Order 504 of the Webster Police Department which requires the chief of police to establish the specific site of a sobriety checkpoint at any given time. Nor is there anything in any controlling case law which would require the chief of police to micromanage that part of his department’s operation.

Defense counsel’s reliance on the 2002 case decision is misplaced. In that case the court stated that “the existence of a set of guidelines was never even mentioned during the course of the suppression hearing.” In this case the existence of police department guidelines on the issue of sobriety checkpoints was never an issue. The defense contends that the police did not properly follow their own guidelines or at best misapplied them. Nevertheless, the instant sobriety checkpoint set up by the Webster police eastbound on New York State Route 104 cannot be invalidated based on the fact that said location was not selected by the proper Webster police official.

In view of the foregoing, the court held that the motion of the defendant to suppress any and all evidence derived from the sobriety checkpoint is hereby denied. The evidence elicited at the Scott hearing established that the site of said sobriety checkpoint was not improperly selected. No prior empirical evidence of alcohol related arrests or accidents at a particular site are required before that site can be used for a sobriety checkpoint. Nor did the facts establish that a proper Webster police official failed to pick the site selected for said roadblock.

If you have been indicted of DWI, seek the representation of a New York DWI Defense Attorney and/or New York Criminal Attorney at Stephen Bilkis and Associates in order to defend your case.

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