The court of appeals reversed a defendant’s DWI conviction yesterday in State v. Ashworth, __ N.C. App. __ (August 2, 2016), on the basis that the trial court plainly erred in holding that the driver’s license checkpoint at which the defendant was stopped was appropriately tailored and advanced the public interest. Unlike some checkpoint cases in which you can see the trouble coming in the recitation of facts, Ashworth is a pretty routine checkpoint case. Two officers with the State Highway Patrol set up the checkpoint to look for driver’s license and other traffic violations. The highway patrol had a checkpoint policy that the officers followed. A supervisor approved the checkpoint. The defendant admitted that he had been drinking almost immediately after he stopped at the checkpoint. So where did the trial court go wrong?
Regular and well-publicized checkpoints are an important component of the State’s effort to curtail impaired driving. Checkpoints provide specific as well as general deterrence. A handful of impaired drivers typically are arrested at any given checking station and subsequently prosecuted for impaired driving. Many more drivers than are stopped hear about the checkpoint. That publicity … Read more