Know your rights and keep a cool head at sobriety checkpoints
01 May 2017IN: Criminal Law
At DUI checkpoints, police officers set up to stop vehicles and check for impaired drivers. Tennessee uses these checkpoints. The locations are temporary and you can usually find out the locations of the checkpoints in advance. Check ahead of time to avoid these locations if possible. If you are already out and about and see a DUI checkpoint up ahead, do not try to alter your path to avoid it. There are officers looking for this behavior and may consider this act an admission of guilt. Do not draw negative attention to yourself like this.
What should I do at a DUI checkpoint?
When you reach a DUI checkpoint, you will be stopped by a police officer and briefly interviewed. Drivers suspected of driving under the influence will be subject to sobriety tests. If you ever find yourself at a DUI checkpoint, make sure to remember the following to avoid some serious problems down the road:
- Be calm. Yes, being subject to these kinds of stops can be aggravating. If you are inebriated, your agitation may elevate to aggression because you are afraid of what is going to happen. Keep your feelings to yourself. It is not the time to express how disgruntled you may be. It can only lead to trouble.
- Be compliant. Do as you are asked and be polite. If the officer asks to see your license or registration, provide it. If you are asked to step out of your vehicle, do so. Cooperation is appreciated and can avoid escalation. Additionally, only make movements the officer asks for. Do not reach into your pocket or glove box without the officer asking. Any of these kinds of movements may be interpreted as threatening by the officer. Some may think you are trying to reach for a weapon.
- Know when not to be compliant. While cooperation can keep the situation manageable, you also need to protect yourself and your legal rights. You always have the right against self-incrimination. If an officer asks you a question, you are well within your legal rights to decline answering. Even answers to seemingly innocent questions like, “Where are you coming from?” can work against you later on.
- Be aware of the consequences. As stated above, know when not to be compliant, but be aware of what the fallout of this may be. For example, if the officer asks you to submit to a blood test, you can refuse. If you refuse, the officer can get a warrant. Judicial officers are usually close by or on call when a DUI checkpoint is set-up. The officer may also decline to seek a warrant and, instead, ask the court to suspend your driver’s license. If your license is already suspended and you refuse the blood test, you will likely be fined or face jail time. Also, a court may order an ignition interlock device for your car.
- Be attentive. Try and make a mental note of as much as you can about the stop. How was it set up? What did the officer say to you? You never know what might be important later on.