When you drive a vehicle on the public streets and highways of Tennessee, law enforcement, whether the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Hamilton County Sheriff or Chattanooga Police, cannot just stop your vehicle without a valid, legal reason.
Law enforcement either must have a search warrant, granted by a judge upon a showing of probable cause of some illegal activity, or your driving or your vehicle must exhibit some violation of a statute or other traffic ordinance.
For instance, when you drive faster than the posted speed limit, you give an officer the right to stop your vehicle. And because of the vast number of regulations that apply to operating a motor vehicle, there are probably thousands of potential violations.
In fact, it is even broader than that, as a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision found that if a police officer stops a car, and he or she believes in good faith that the vehicle or driver is in violation of a statute or regulation, even if they are wrong, if they discover drugs or other contraband during the stop, the evidence will be admissible.
Broken taillights are a very popular category of grounds for a traffic stop. A burnt out headlight also supply legal grounds for a stop. And of course, poor driving, such as swerving in and out of a lane, going off the road surface on to the shoulder and driving excessively slow are all likely to attract the attention of a passing officer or trooper.
And once you have “opened the door” by giving law enforcement the right to stop your vehicle, evidence of alcohol consumption, smell of marijuana, or other drug paraphernalia in plain sight within the vehicle is likely to open another door, that of a jail cell.
Source: greenevillesun.com “‘Swerving’ Drivers Prompt DUI Arrests,” Ken Little, June 1, 2015