What to do at a DUI Checkpoint in Tennessee

Murfreesboro DUI lawyers explain your rights when facing a driving under the influence checkpoint

Ever since they were first introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints have stirred considerable controversy. Indeed, it was not until 1990 that the Supreme Court partially put these concerns to rest by declaring checkpoints to be legal, as long as they are conducted under controlled conditions and meet specific requirements. Knowing these requirements, as well as a person’s rights when stopped at a checkpoint, can be the difference between a positive and negative result in a Tennessee DUI case.

The experienced Murfreesboro DUI attorneys at Kidwell, South, Beasley and Haley routinely represent defendants in DUI cases throughout Middle Tennessee, and many of these cases involve a vehicle checkpoint on the streets of Murfreesboro or surrounding areas. Our DUI defense attorneys are familiar with all the rules and procedures in the local courts, including those guidelines that are unwritten. We leverage this experience to produce results that exceed your expectations.

What are my rights at a checkpoint?

Checkpoint locations are advertised in advance, and it is best to avoid these locations if possible. However, if you see a checkpoint in the distance, do not attempt to turn around and avoid it, because many police officers consider this behavior to be an admission of guilt. Instead, when you approach the officer, remember these simple rules:

  • Comply: Produce your license, registration, and other documents upon request. Do not reach into your wallet or glove box until asked, because nervous officers may believe you are reaching for a weapon.
  • Refuse: Politely refuse to answer any questions, even seemingly innocuous ones, like “Where are you coming from?” and “Is this your vehicle?”
  • Be Alert: Take a mental note of the layout, and then record your thoughts at the first opportunity.

The underlying idea is to comply now, and complain later. Such an attitude preserves your rights at the checkpoint and lays a foundation for future legal action, if it becomes necessary.

What are the legal components of a checkpoint?

The U.S. Supreme Court first articulated a standard in 1990’s Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration subsequently released a set of rules based on that decision. These requirements include:

  • All decisions must be made at a supervisory level; officers can have no discretion in setting up the checkpoint,
  • The law enforcement agency must advertise the location in advance, both to inform motorists and increase the deterrent effect,
  • Cars cannot be stopped at the officer’s discretion, but must be pulled over according to a specific formula, such as every vehicle or every third vehicle,
  • DUI checkpoints must be set up in an area known for a high incidence of DUI arrests,
  • Warning lights and signs must be clearly visible, and
  • The individual stops, as well as the overall length, must be as brief as possible.

If the checkpoint fails to meet legal specifications, the stop and subsequent arrest may be thrown out in a motion to suppress.

If you have been caught in a Tennessee DUI checkpoint, contact our Murfreesboro DUI attorneys today

A DUI conviction in Tennessee has short and long-term consequences that can be devastating and impact all areas of your life. Contact the experienced Murfreesboro DUI attorneys at Kidwell, South, Beasley and Haley today for help at 615-893-1331, or contact us online for a free consultation. Convenient payment plans are available.