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State v. Decamera

Decided: December 18, 1989.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH DECAMERA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Pressler, Long and Gruccio. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gruccio, J.A.D.

Gruccio

This case involves the constitutionality of a roadblock set up to apprehend drunk drivers. Defendant argues that State v. Kirk, 202 N.J. Super. 28 (App.Div.1985), requires advance publicity of sobriety checkpoints. The Law Division judge, rejecting that contention, denied defendant's motion to suppress the evidence against him on the charge of drunken driving. After denial of the suppression motion, defendant pled guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, while reserving his right to appeal the denial of the suppression motion. R. 3:5-7(d).

Defendant contends:

1. The roadblock employed by the officers in the motor vehicle stop of defendant was unconstitutional, thereby mandating suppression of all evidence obtained by the officers during the stop and subsequent arrest of defendant.

2. Public policy demands that "advance publicity" be a requirement in order for a police roadblock to be upheld as constitutional.

The facts were stipulated except for those surrounding the issue of advance publicity. At the conclusion of the suppression hearing, the trial court found that there was no advance published notice of the roadblock. He also found that the checkpoint was set up pursuant to the Kirk guidelines and that the officers displayed a sign which indicated there was a sobriety checkpoint ahead. Additionally, a dozen troop cars were present. Every vehicle stopped was given a pamphlet setting forth the hazards of drinking and driving.

Preliminarily, we are compelled to note that the record is hardly a model of completeness for the challenge made,*fn1 nevertheless, we hold that the State's action here did not offend constitutional standards.

In Kirk, Judge King observed that a sobriety checkpoint roadblock would pass constitutional muster if it was established by a supervisory authority and targeted to a designated area at a specified time. He held that the siting of the roadblock must be based on data suggesting that it would be appropriate based on considerations of public safety and reasonable law enforcement goals. Kirk, 202 N.J. Super. at 40.

In dicta, Judge King also noted other factors, which if considered, would enhance judicial approval of the roadblock. They include:

(1) adequate warnings to avoid frightening the traveling public, (2) advance general publicity designed to deter drunken drivers from getting in cars in the first place, and (3) officially specified neutral and courteous procedures for the intercepting officers to follow when stopping drivers. [ Kirk, 202 N.J. Super. at 41].

In Little v. State, 300 Md. 485, 479 A.2d 903 (1984), Maryland's highest court, in approving ...


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