New York is one of 38 states that conduct checkpoints to canvass drivers who may be operating their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The other 12 states do not conduct sobriety checkpoints because they are prohibited by law, based on that state’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. In Alaska, officers do not conduct checkpoints because the legislature simply has not given them authority to do so.
DWI road blocks are utilized throughout New York on a weekly basis. The good news is, authorities have to publicize where they will be and you can search for the upcoming locations online. The law also requires that the police provide adequate signage, warning lights, and ample room to turn around before you approach a checkpoint. Often, upon approaching a checkpoint, officers will get you to roll down your window by handing you a pamphlet or some other item. This allows them to see your eyes, smell your breath and glance into your car. You do not have to roll down your window at a DWI checkpoint. If you are stopped, you do not have to let the police search your vehicle. They may ask you to conduct field sobriety tests. You do not have to do those either.
If you turn your car around before the checkpoint or refuse to roll down your window, you will obviously draw attention to yourself and raise suspicions. But you do have those options available to you. Many criticize checkpoints for being inefficient and ineffective because people with previous or recurring drunk driving charges know how to avoid them. Like the driver in this article, people arrested for DWI at a checkpoint are often barely over the legal limit and probably do not believe their driving is impaired, or they would have avoided the checkpoint altogether.
Source: Madison County Courier, “DWI Checkpoint Leads to Several Arrests on the Thruway,” March 29, 2012