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What you need to know about Buffalo-area sobriety checkpoints

Police in most states, including New York, use sobriety checkpoints to discourage drunk driving. Police at checkpoints randomly stop drivers and look for signs of impaired driving. The checkpoints typically are used around holidays on routes that have a higher-than-normal rate of DWI arrests or DWI-related crashes.  

Many people question the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints, but the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1990 that sobriety checkpoints are legal.

The court said reducing the number of drunk drivers outweighs law enforcement's intrusion into people's lives. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in the court's 1990 decision that checkpoints are "consistent with the Fourth Amendment."

Today 38 states allow sobriety checkpoints.

How are sobriety checkpoint locations chosen?

Law enforcement agencies are not allowed to do anything they want at checkpoints. In response to legal decisions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has provided guidance to law enforcement agencies regarding the use of checkpoints. The NHTSA says the duration and location of checkpoints must be reasonable. Its advice on locations says:

  • The safety of the public should be the top consideration when selecting checkpoint locations.
  • The location should be in an area where there have been a high number of drunk-driving-related crashes.
  • The location should present the least amount of inconvenience possible to the public. Before setting up a checkpoint, law enforcement should measure what the effect will be on traffic.
  • The location should have enough room on the shoulder for detaining motorists.
  • Multiple stretches of road should be considered when selecting a location.

Plus, the NHTSA advises authorities to publicize the checkpoints in advance. If checkpoints fail to meet the legal standard for duration, location and publicity, the arrests can be challenged in court and dismissed.

Erie County sobriety checkpoint locations

Sobriety checkpoints are common in the Buffalo area, and it is not unusual for law enforcement to arrest up to a dozen people at a specific checkpoint. A 2016 checkpoint in Cheektowaga, for example, yielded five arrests - four for marijuana possession and one for DWI, according to media reports.

Below are the locations and dates for sobriety checkpoints in Erie County for the past 12 months, according to duiblock.com.

  • Buffalo, September 3, 2017: West Seneca Street and Franklin Street
  • Buffalo, August 25, 2017: South Park Avenue Area of Buffalo River Bridge
  • Buffalo, July 11, 2017: Amherst Street and Elmwood Avenue
  • Tonawanda, June 17, 2017: Bottom of the First Grand Island South Bridge
  • Buffalo, February 24, 2017: Millersport Highway
  • Buffalo, February 17, 2017: Transit Road and Interstate 90
  • Depew, December 31, 2016: Transit Road and Genesee Street
  • Buffalo, November 23, 2016: Harlem Road and Genesee Street
  • Athol Springs, November 23, 2016: Lakeshore Road, near LaSalle Avenue
  • Buffalo, November 4, 2016: Main Street and Niagara Falls Boulevard
  • Elma, October 29, 2016: Transit Road and Southwestern Boulevard
  • Buffalo, October 29, 2016: Main Street and Kensington Avenue
  • Buffalo, October 15, 2016: Transit Road and Interstate 90

If you have questions about sobriety checkpoints or DWI, contact a knowledgeable DWI attorney.

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