In Tennessee, law enforcement has the legal authority to set up sobriety checkpoints. These are blocked areas of the road where every driver, or every few drivers, is stopped so officers can try to detect if the driver is intoxicated. If you are pulled over at a DUI checkpoint, however, you have rights and you should exercise them.
Can I avoid a sobriety checkpoint?
First of all, you have the right to avoid sobriety checkpoints. In Tennesssee, law enforcement agencies are required to publicize when and where they are going to be. Taking advantage of that information to avoid the checkpoint is perfectly legal. Likewise, if you come upon a sobriety checkpoint and have the option of legally turning around or turning on a side street to avoid it, you do have the right to do so. However, be aware that some police officers will find this suspicious.
Let’s assume that you do enter the checkpoint. At that point, depending on how the sobriety checkpoint is structured, you will likely be flagged by an officer either to roll down your window, to pull over, or to pass through without being tested. Assuming you are told to pull over or stop, the first step will be for the officer to ask you some questions.
Do I have to answer police questions?
You have the right to refuse to answer these questions. However, you may feel great pressure to do so. If you prefer not to answer the questions, you can tell the officer that you are invoking your constitutional right to remain silent.
Whether or not you answer the questions, the officer might direct you to perform roadside field sobriety tests and if the officer suspects intoxication, then may ask you to submit to a breath or blood test
Do I have to perform roadside sobriety tests?
No. In Tennessee, these are entirely optional for drivers. However, the police are not likely to tell you that the tests are optional. If you do submit to the tests, the tests can be used against you.
Do I have to blow into a breathalyzer or take a blood test?
You might be legally required to do this or accept the consequences if the officer finds there is probable cause to arrest you for DUI. In Tennessee, as in most states, the law assumes you have consented to a blood or breath test by virtue of driving on public roads. If you refuse the test, you could lose your license for a year on your first offense.
If you are arrested, call a lawyer
In 2019, there were 19,538 DUI arrests in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Many of those occurred at sobriety checkpoints. If you have been arrested for DUI or refusal to take a chemical test, a conviction could be life-changing. Don’t try to handle this on your own. Call an experienced DUI defense attorney right away.