As the holidays are quickly approaching, there is a lot to plan for. Something you never really plan for is what to do if you go through a sobriety checkpoint. Our team at Huffman Mason, PLLC has put together this guide for what you can and should do if you find yourself at a sobriety checkpoint.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Tennessee?
Each state has different rules for sobriety checkpoints. In Tennessee, they remain legal. However, numerous states have ruled that sobriety checkpoints are unconstitutional. Those states believe that the police stopping each car at a checkpoint is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches. At a sobriety checkpoint, police are not required to have any probable cause to stop a vehicle and question a driver.
On holidays, people tend to engage in drinking more than usual. This also leads to a spike in DUI cases.
Specifically over Thanksgiving weekend:
- Over 40 million people are expected to travel by car
- Alcohol sales increase by over 100% on the night before Thanksgiving
- One-third of all traffic fatalities involve a drunk driver
To combat this, law enforcement officers often set up sobriety checkpoints over holiday weekends. With the upcoming holidays, it is crucial that you know your rights at a sobriety checkpoint.
What Happens At A Checkpoint?
First, you will come upon a roadblock. There may even be signage stating that you have entered a DUI checkpoint.
Once you have made it up to a police officer, they will ask you for your license and registration. From the second you begin interacting, they will also be looking for signs that you are under the influence.
- Slurred speech
- Glossy eyes
- Clumsiness/fumbling your documentation
- The smell of alcohol
If from this point they suspect you are under the influence, they may ask you to participate in a breath test or field sobriety test.
Under implied consent laws, if you refuse a breath test, you can have your license suspended for up to a year. However, we still recommend choosing this option and then contacting a defense attorney who can help fight for you to keep your license.
The three main types of standardized field sobriety tests are:
- The Walk and Turn Test
- The One-Leg Stand Test
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
Field sobriety tests are always optional and you cannot be penalized for refusing to participate. A high percentage of sober drivers are unable to pass these tests, and for that reason, we always recommend refusing to participate in any field sobriety tests.
Your Rights At A Sobriety Checkpoint
Take these steps to protect yourself.
Avoid The Checkpoint Altogether
If you see a checkpoint ahead, you are not required to go through it. If you can legally turn around, feel free to do so. However, keep in mind that this may make the police suspicious, and they may still follow you and stop you.
When you are stopped, the police may begin asking you questions, like:
- Where are you coming from?
- How much have you had to drink tonight?
You are not required to answer these questions. You are only required to identify yourself by providing your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Calmly state that you are using your right to remain silent.
Say No To A Search
If the police ask to search your car, calmly say no. You are not required to consent to a warrantless search. Once you give consent, most anything they find in your vehicle can be used as evidence against you.
Arrested At A Sobriety Checkpoint?
If you were arrested for DUI while going through a sobriety checkpoint, contact us at Huffman Mason, PLLC today. You can rely on us to do everything in our power to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Call today to set up a consultation with our Tennessee DUI defense lawyers: (901) 295-0100.