On July 19, 2018, the court ordered our client’s driver’s license be reinstated because he was improperly arrested at a DWI checkpoint on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. DWI checkpoints on Tchoupitoulas Street are frequently conducted by the New Orleans Police Department, in part, because their station is nearby which makes transportation of the arrested fairly quick and easy.
When clients come to us and have been charged with a DWI, the first thing we do is look into all aspects of the arrest and charge. When a person is charged with a DWI at a checkpoint, an important consideration is the client’s constitutional rights.
In this case, our client was charged with a DWI after entering a checkpoint and his license was suspended. We challenged the DWI and license suspension based on the failure of the New Orleans Police Department to follow proper and necessary protocol for DWI sobriety checkpoints. When a client is stopped at a checkpoint and then charged with a DWI, we turn to the case law and Louisiana statutes to see if appropriate procedures were followed.
The current governing case in Louisiana on DWI checkpoints is State v. Jackson and the statute is La. R.S. 32:668. This case and statute covers matters relating to the legal rights of individuals who are stopped at a DWI checkpoint. What is important to note is that in DWI checkpoint cases, the law enforcement agency has the burden of proving whether the DWI checkpoint was constitutional.
Even if you “blow” over the legal limit in a chemical test, you can still challenge the constitutionality of a DWI checkpoint through an administrative hearing procedure. This is important because if you are successful at the administrative hearing, you get to keep your driver’s license and it is not suspended. This is especially important to people who rely on their driver’s license to get to and from work.
If the checkpoint is not constitutionally conducted, your driver’s license must be reinstated. In State v. Jackson, the court developed guidelines to limit the unbridled discretion of the officer in the field conducting a checkpoint. Sufficient evidence to prove compliance with the guidelines must be established for the department to prove the checkpoint was constitutionally conducted.
A few of the requirements are as follows:
- Field officers, supervisory, or administrative personnel must establish the location, time, and duration of the checkpoint or any other regulations governing the operation of the checkpoint;
- Evidence must be presented to show advance warnings were provided to motorists to warn of the impending stop and the nature of the police checkpoint;
- Evidence must be presented to show the detention of motorists was for a minimal length of time;
- Evidence must be presented to show what criteria is being used for stopping motorists at the checkpoint.
In our case, the Judge found the department did not submit any evidence regarding any compliance with the DWI guidelines for checkpoints in Louisiana. The Judge found this lack of evidence was fatal to enforcement of the checkpoint and reinstated our client’s driver’s license and driving privileges. You can read the entire ruling below:
If you have been arrested at a DWI checkpoint in Louisiana, you can contact Hannah Salter or Cliff Cardone for a free DWI checkpoint consultation at 504-522-3333 or you can chat with us online at www.cardonelaw.com. We are real lawyers, with real results.