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Holidays bring Tennessee sobriety checkpoints

'Tis the season for holiday jingles, festive decorations and lots of pretty lights. Unfortunately, for some drivers, those blinking lights may not be on a tree, but on a Tennessee Highway Patrol or Chattanooga Police Department vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint.

Those DUI checkpoints have received more publicity than normal, but a YouTube video that records an encounter between law enforcement and a driver of a vehicle stopped by the checkpoint.

During the stop, the driver and passengers turn the tables and "aggressively question" the officer. The news story reports that you are not required by law to answer their questions or submit to a field sobriety test. This is true if you are sober and provide the officer with no evidence of intoxication.

If the officers' claim he or she detected alcohol on your breath, that may provide the probable cause to request that that you execute a series of field sobriety tests. You can refuse, and if they arrest you, you can demand an independent blood test.

Many in Tennessee support the use of DUI checkpoints, and the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed this intrusion on constitutional rights because of the concern with drunk driving, however, that concern does not absolve law enforcement from having to adhere to all constitutional and procedural rules at those checkpoints.

While avoiding drinking and driving may keep you safer on the roads this holiday season, it may not keep you from being arrested at a DUI checkpoint if you encounter an overly aggressive officer. If you have been stopped and arrested and believe irregularities occurred, you should consult with an attorney to discuss the fact of your case.

WBBJtv.com, "Drivers and DUI Checkpoint Rights," Kurt Mullen, December 5, 2014

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