"Live Free or Die", Unless You Are Stopped in a DWI Roadblock

Everyone in New Hampshire is familiar with our state motto:

"Live Free or Die"

This was written by Revolutionary War hero General John Stark. General Stark and his men won the Battle of Bennington, and years later, when General Stark was too sick to attend a reunion of the men who won that battle, he sent his troops this toast:

"Live Free or Die; Death is Not the Worst of Evils"

Today though, the police conduct massive DWI roadblocks in our state, stopping hundreds of citizens who have done nothing wrong in hope of catching a couple of drunken ones. DWI roadblocks have grown from a couple of Independence Day events in two towns to a statewide, weekly phenomenon. As long as the police continue to get grants and funding to stop cars, they will continue to block the roads that citizens travel on.

DWI roadblocks are reducing our state motto, Live Free or Die, from a way of life to a mere slogan. It is more likely than ever that you will have an unwanted encounter with the police this summer, even if you have not been drinking at all. You may want to prepare for this anxious event by preparing yourself for what you will do when your constitutional rights are stripped away while you roll into a roadblock.

When you approach the entrance into the roadblock, you will probably see bright signs that say "DWI Sobriety Checkpoint". That is because "checkpoint" sounds less offensive than "roadblock", but to the average New Hampshire driver, whether he has had a few beers or not, it will surely seem like a "DWI roadblock". Next an officer will be pointing a flashlight. You will then be stopped for no reason at all, just like in the Third World.

One of the first things to occur during this unwanted encounter will be an officer's demand for your license and registration. The officer asks for both at the same time to try to confuse you. This technique is described in DWI Detection and Field Sobriety manuals like this:


"A basic purpose of the face-to-face observation and interview of the driver is to identify and gather evidence of alcohol and/or drug influence. This is the purpose of each task in each phase of DWI detection" HS 178 R1/02, DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual.

What this means is that every question and requested task is being used to gather evidence against you.

Further along in the same page of the manual the "license and registration" demand is described like this:

"Questioning Techniques

The questions you ask and the way in which you ask them can constitute simple divided attention tests. Three techniques are particularly pertinent:

1. Asking for two things simultaneously
2. Asking interrupting and distracting questions
3. Asking unusual questions

An example of the first technique, asking for two things simultaneously, is requesting the drivers license and vehicle registration. Possible evidence of impairment may come to light as the driver responds to this dual request."

HS R1/02, DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual.

The manual then goes on to suggest a number of stock observations the officer could make about difficulties you have retrieving these two documents under pressure.


It is not a bad idea to prepare for this event. Have your license and registration in an easy place to find and an easy place to quickly and effortlessly produce upon demand. Don't put your license in a difficult spot to pull it out quickly when you need to. Practice taking your license out of your wallet in the safety of your home. CONSIDER GETTING A REGISTRATION HOLDER TO KEEP YOUR VEHICLE REGISTRATION IN. If you do not have one send me an email with your mailing address and I will send you a registration holder for every one of your vehicles free of charge. Then practice producing your license and registration fairly frequently. It will make it easier to do if you ever have to produce them under a pressurized roadside situation.

After the license and registration interrogation, you may be asked to perform "field sobriety tests". It is important to know that there is political pressure on the police to make as many arrests during a DWI roadblock as they can, so if you are a "close one" on your field sobriety tests you will be arrested. You should choose how much evidence against yourself that you want to give them; it will all come back to bite you later. You cannot be forced to perform roadside field sobriety tests (not yet). You also cannot be forced to blow into the hand held, battery-operated breath testing gadgets the police ask you to blow into in the roadblock.

Think about what you will do BEFORE you are stopped for no reason at all. Try the field sobriety tests while you are sober; you will likely not pass them. Choose what you say and what you do when asked to give evidence against yourself very carefully.

In memory of General Stark and the other heroes who fought for the rights that we have today,

Happy Independence Day, and

Live Free or Die

Mark Stevens
5 Manor Parkway
Salem, NH 03079




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