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What can happen at a DUI roadblock in Tennessee?

Whether your night out included alcohol or not, there is a moment of hesitation when you're driving home and see a sign for a DUI roadblock ahead. With the street full of officers and patrol vehicles to enforce the roadblock, the situation gets intimidating quickly.

It's important to know the rules for both you and the officers so that you can make the process as easy as possible. While there are rules to follow, it's important to know that you still have rights at a DUI roadblock.

Here are some rules for DUI roadblocks in Tennessee.

Rules for officers

Officers can't simply set up a DUI roadblock when and where they want to. There must be notification to the public and the location has to be somewhere that the checks can be performed safely. Officers must get prior approval for where, when, and how the roadblock will operate. In a case that was recently vacated, officers failed to provide notice of the roadblock and set it up in a place that was not safe for motorists. The officers exercised too much personal discretion to make the roadblock meet the requirements for a valid roadblock.

Also, when making stops at a roadblock, officers cannot simply make people submit to a breathalyzer test to determine if they have been drinking. Officers still must have reasonable suspicion to ask you to submit to any tests or probable cause to perform any searches. Reasonable suspicion may include the smell of alcohol on your breath or slurred speech when you are talking.

Rules for drivers

When discussing DUI roadblocks, people often want to know what police have the authority to do and what can be considered an intrusive stop. A stop at a roadblock is not a time to engage an officer in a debate over the constitutionality of a roadblock. Instead, be sure to follow these rules to make the process as easy as possible:

  • You may turn around before the roadblock. If it is possible to turn around and avoid a roadblock, you must turn around before the roadblock and it has to be a legal turn. While there is the possibility that turning around will seem suspicious, officers would then need a reason to stop your vehicle in addition to you turning around in order to make a stop for drunk driving or another offense.
  • You must stop. Once you enter the roadblock area, if an officer instructs you to stop, you must stop.

DUI roadblocks may not have been part of the plan on your way home from a night out, but following the rules of the roadblock can make the process easier.

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