Generally speaking, a DWI stop involves some type of probable cause or reasonable suspicion. A police officer cannot make a random stop. He or she must have a reason for the stop, such as believing that the driver is intoxicated or watching that driver break a traffic law.
DWI checkpoints seem to fly in the face of this rule. They allow police to simply stop all cars that come through the checkpoint, with or without reason. Some have argued that this violates the Fourth Amendment rights that citizens have by subjecting them to an unfair search. That, in turn, leads to the belief that these checkpoints are illegal themselves or that arrests won’t hold up in court.
This issue has gone before the Supreme Court. The ruling, as a surprise to many, was that checkpoints are not illegal and do not violate anyone’s rights. The court felt that the increase in public safety due to the lower levels of drunk drivers was worth allowing such stops, even if it meant that sober drivers also had to deal with the stop — despite not having broken the law.
As such, these checkpoints are legal in North Carolina. Those who get stopped and arrested can face serious charges. This remains controversial, of course, as there are those who do not agree with the decision made by the court. However, it is important to understand what the law allows and not to fall prey to the myth that these stops cannot happen. Instead, if you do wind up getting arrested, it is wise to begin looking into all of the legal defense options you have and the next steps you need to take.
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