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How to behave at a DUI checkpoint

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2021 | Criminal Defense

When law enforcement agencies in Tennessee launch drunk driving crackdowns, they usually increase the number of police cars on patrol and set up DUI checkpoints near bars and restaurants. When drivers approach a DUI checkpoint, police officers ask them if they have consumed alcohol and look for obvious signs of impairment. Officers may also shine their flashlights into vehicle interiors to check for open containers of alcohol or drug paraphernalia.

Behavior to avoid at DUI checkpoints

Police departments generally set up DUI checkpoints in areas where U-turns are not permitted. This means that turning around to avoid the checkpoint will give officers probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. Refusing to provide a breath sample is also inadvisable as it will lead to a mandatory driving ban for violating Tennessee’s implied consent law. In these situations, police officers may arrest motorists they suspect of driving while impaired and then obtain search warrants to draw their blood.

The legality of DUI checkpoints

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DUI checkpoints did not violate the Fourth Amendment in a 1990 case involving the Michigan State Police. After hearing arguments, the justices determined that the interests of the authorities and the dangers of drunk driving outweighed what they saw as a negligible impact on rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The right to remain silent

Police officers at DUI checkpoints may ask drivers if they have been drinking and how much alcohol they consumed. Motorists with nothing to hide should answer these questions honestly, but drivers who could be over the limit may wish to remain silent. Experienced criminal law attorneys would likely advise their clients against making false or misleading statements to law enforcement as doing so is unlikely to improve matters and could make negotiating a fair plea agreement more difficult.

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