Drunk driving puts road users at significant risk of harm. Checkpoints set up by Tennessee law enforcement officials make it possible to catch intoxicated drivers before they cause an accident. However, a checkpoint stop differs from a DUI stop on the road, and drivers may benefit from learning their rights.
Only some drivers in Tennessee realize that the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must provide public notices of checkpoints – including time and location – in news sources. Further rules apply to decrease the chances the checkpoints will violate a driver’s rights.
Checkpoint stops could be random, with some cars stopped for no particular reason. However, anyone who operates a vehicle in a way that suggests they do not have control over it may draw attention. The police would likely ask someone to step out of the vehicle and submit to a sobriety test if they suspect the person is under the influence. They would not automatically demand a sobriety test because the law limits how long they can hold someone.
If the police violate a suspect’s rights during the DUI checkpoint stop, under criminal law, the arrest may not be legal. For example, using any discriminatory basis to single out certain vehicles could violate the driver’s constitutional rights. Also, the police must have probable cause to perform an arrest, such as smelling alcohol or marijuana.
If the police require a field sobriety test or a Breathalyzer, they must perform their actions appropriately. Not calibrating the breathalyzer correctly or improperly performing the field sobriety test may undermine the evidence. Such evidence could be inadmissible in court.