Cooperation with law enforcement is key
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints are legal. This means that all drivers stopped at the checkpoint, even though law enforcement has no probable cause that anyone is driving under the influence, are subject to examination. Tennessee law enforcement, like other states, routinely use DUI checkpoints, especially during holidays like July 4th and Labor Day.
Over the past few years, there have been many changes to the level of authority the police have at DUI checkpoints. In 2012, Tennessee modified the law to allow police to take blood tests in many situations—even if the driver opposed it. Then, in 2013 the United States Supreme Court ruled that taking blood without a warrant violated a driver’s constitutional rights.
So today in Tennessee, if you’re stopped at a DUI checkpoint, and the officer has reasonable grounds to believe you’ve been driving under the influence, the officer can request that you take a blood test. If you refuse, law enforcement has two choices. They can get a warrant (often a judicial officer is close by or on call) or they can decline to take a blood sample, but have the court suspend your drivers license. If you’re driving with a suspended license, and refuse to a blood test, a fine or jail time is likely. Additionally, a court may order that your vehicle be fitted with an ignition interlock device. This device is essentially a breathalyzer that doesn’t allow the vehicle to be started if you’ve been drinking.
So if you get stopped at a DUI checkpoint, what do you do? You cooperate with law enforcement. Even if you disagree with their right to randomly stop you without probable cause, or you’re upset at the delay, this is not the time to express those feelings. If the officer wants to see your drivers license, provide it. If you’re asked to get out of the vehicle, do so. Be polite and cooperative. If they ask you to submit to a blood test, then you have a choice—consent to it or decline to unless there is a warrant.
Although police have a lot of power at DUI checkpoints, you still have the right against self-incrimination. If asked whether you’ve been drinking, politely decline to answer, unless you can honestly tell the officer you haven’t been drinking.
The time to challenge any penalty associated with driving under the influence is after the incident, using the legal process. Failure to cooperate with law enforcement at a checkpoint can likely make the situation worse, resulting in additional charges.
Instead, let the experienced Murfreesboro DUI attorneys at Dotson & Taylor help you fight DUI charges. We thoroughly examine every iota of police conduct during a DUI checkpoint to make sure they’ve followed their internal procedures and respected the rights that Tennessee law and the Constitution have given you. Give us a call anytime at 615-890-1982 or e-mail us as soon as possible after your DUI arrest.0