NH Supreme Court - Drunk Driving Roadblocks Upheld

May 25, 2007. Drunk Driving: Secret Random Stops Upheld.

Being a DWI Hunter is tough. You've got to hide in darkened parking lots across the street from bars, cruise the highway, and drive all over town, looking for a drunk driver... and hope that the drunk driver drives so badly that you'll develop individualized, reasonable suspicion to pull him over.

There's got to be a better way.

Commercial fisherman don't always use a hook and line, do they? Some use a driftnet.

In State v. Hunt,155 N.H. 465 (2007), the New Hampshire Supreme Court, interpreting the State Constitution, upheld a DWI roadblock in Portsmouth where the only advance publicity had been in a Dover newspaper a few hours before the roadblock.

Five NH DWI defendants caught in the dragnet won their motions to suppress in the district court, but the State prevailed on appeal.

Previously, the Court had at held that significant advance notice of roadblocks must be publicized in local media because otherwise roadblocks have no deterrent value in deterring drunk driving.

Besides, advance notice allows the public can make a choice... do I want to waive my constitutional rights and submit to random, suspicionless searches when I go out this Saturday night, or would I prefer to stay home?

The Court decided:

1. Sobriety checkpoints do not per se violate Part I, Article 19 of the New Hampshire Constitution.

2. The Court backed away from its previous emphasis on the importance of advance publicity and even implied that advance publicity may not be constitutionally required at all, leaving that for another day.

So, what to do about sobriety checkpoints?

If you see a checkpoint up ahead, and you don't feel like submitting to a warrantless and unwarranted intrusion into your privacy, take the next available turn-off. If you don't, a DWI conviction may result. According to the Hawaii Supreme Court among others, intentional evasion of a checkpoint is not reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle.

Categories: DWI/DUI Defense