New Year's Eve is a time when many law enforcement departments set up DUI checkpoints. Are these checkpoints legal in Tennessee? If so, what can you do to protect yourself if you are pulled over?
Unfortunately, DUI checkpoints are legal under rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Tennessee Supreme Court. However, what the officer does after the stop may cross the line and violate your constitutional rights. If you are pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, it's important to understand your rights.
Police officers are allowed to engage you at a DUI checkpoint to determine if you have been drinking. The officer may ask you to roll down your window and then ask you some questions. The officer will observe you for signs of alcohol use, such as bloodshot eyes and the odor of alcohol on your breath. You should comply with the officer's requests - up to a point. You should not provide information that will help to incriminate you.
Have you been drinking?
This is a loaded question that the officer will undoubtedly ask you. If you respond by saying you "had a few drinks," you have just given the office evidence that he or she can use against you. If you have had any drinks at all, politely decline to answer.
Will you perform a field sobriety test?
The field sobriety test is actually a series of tests such as the Walk and Turn, the One-Leg Stand and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. You need to understand two things about these tests. First, they are designed for you to fail. Secondly, while most officers will not tell you, you are not required to take them in Tennessee.
Do I have to take a breathalyzer test?
If the officer suspects you have been drinking, he or she may order you to take a Breathalyzer test. You can refuse to take the test. However, refusing to take the test is a crime and can result in suspension of your driver's license and other consequences.
To protect yourself, it's important to seek legal advice from an attorney who regularly defends people accused of driving under the influence. The law firm of Hindman & Associates defends clients charged with DUI in the Knoxville area.