16 May 23

Can an Officer Stop a Driver for Legally Turning Away from a DWI Checkpoint?

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Last Updated on: 3rd June 2023, 09:20 pm

Escaping the Tight Grip of DWI Checkpoints: What Every Driver Needs to Know

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) checkpoints are a prevalent and often dreaded feature on American roads, especially during celebratory occasions and weekends. Established by dedicated law enforcement officers, these checkpoints are designed to catch drivers who may be operating their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Though officers need to have a reasonable articulable suspicion (RAS) before stopping a driver, making a legal turn away from a DWI checkpoint can still lead to an intense investigation.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll delve into the highly relevant court cases that provide guidance on how courts determine when officers are justified in stopping and investigating drivers who make legal turns from DWI checkpoints. We’ll also investigate the factors that may influence whether law enforcement officers decide to stop and inspect drivers who make legal turns away from these seemingly inescapable checkpoints.

Understanding the Law: Crucial Cases on Legal Turns and DWI Checkpoints

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that stops made at DWI checkpoints do not violate Fourth Amendment protections, so long as all mandatory constitutional and statutory requirements are adhered to. This ruling was established in the case of Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, where it was found that stops made pursuant to DWI checkpoints do not violate the Fourth Amendment, provided that an extensive set of constitutional and statutory requirements and procedures are followed.

However, one landmark case clarifies what is considered legal when an officer stops someone who makes a legal turn away from a DWI checkpoint – State of North Carolina v. Foreman. This case involved a DWI checkpoint conducted by the New Bern Police Department in Craven County, North Carolina, where notice signs were posted before the spot where cars were being stopped. One police officer, stationed near the checkpoint, was responsible for pursuing all vehicles that attempted to avoid the checkpoint by turning around or away from it.

The Defendant’s Actions and the Court’s Decision

In this riveting case, the defendant made a daring escape from the checkpoint by executing a swift left turn, followed by another abrupt left turn. The police officer lost sight of the vehicle, only to later find it parked in a residential driveway with the lights off and engine turned off. To add intrigue, the defendant was found crouching down and hiding inside the car.

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that although a legal turn alone would not establish RAS, it could constitute reasonable suspicion in conjunction with other circumstances – such as the time and manner of the turn – to justify an investigatory stop.

Crucial Facts of State of North Carolina v. Foreman Case
A DWI checkpoint was established in Craven County by the New Bern Police.
Cars were notified of the upcoming checkpoint via signs placed before they reached it.
A police officer in a marked car was stationed outside the checkpoint and tasked with pursuing any drivers who tried to avoid the checkpoint by making a legal turn away from it.
The defendant made a left turn before approaching the checkpoint, and then another abrupt left turn.
After losing sight of the vehicle, the officers found it parked in a residential driveway without lights or engine running.
The defendant was hiding inside his car.

Factors That Can Influence an Officer’s Decision to Stop a Driver Who Turns Away from a DWI Checkpoint

There isn’t a concrete rule to dictate when law enforcement officers can stop drivers who make legal turns away from DWI checkpoints, but several factors may influence their decision:

* Time of stop: Turning away from checkpoints early in the evening is often seen as less suspicious than during early morning hours.
* Positioning of “DWI Checkpoint Ahead” notice signs: Evidence of adequate warning given to motorists before checkpoints may reduce suspicion related to legal turns.
* Placement of checkpoints: Legal turns on rural roadways with light traffic may not be as suggestive as those near major intersections where cars naturally turn.
* Manner of legal turn: Sharp, erratic movements create more suspicion than slow, controlled turns with adequate signaling.
* Behavior after legal turn: Parking in a residential driveway or driving erratically can raise more suspicion than controlled stops with proper signaling.

Contact an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney for Unrivaled Assistance

If you ever find yourself accused of DWI charges after making what you believed was a legal turn away from a DWI checkpoint, don’t hesitate to reach out to an accomplished criminal defense attorney right away. Our Charlotte office offers free consultations, during which we can discuss your case in detail and devise the most effective defense strategy. Our impressive record of having charges dropped and winning DWI checkpoint cases speaks volumes, so contact us today for skilled advocacy in your case.

Can an Officer Stop a Driver for Legally Turning Away from a DWI Checkpoint?

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