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Sobriety Checkpoints

WSMV News4 Nashville reported that the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit shall set up a sobriety checkpoint on Franklin Rd between Meadow Lake Rd and Wilson Pike Circle. This is scheduled for January 28th and should last from 10PM to 12AM. 

Sobriety checkpoints are roadblocks set up by police so that the officers may check each driver who comes through the checkpoint for signs of impairment. While seemingly invasive, DUI checkpoints are constitutional in Tennessee so long as certain requirements are met. One such requirement is publicizing the roadblock. 

If you must drive through a DUI checkpoint, remember this:

  • When asked, you must give the officer your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Otherwise, you are not obligated to answer specific questions. While it is never advisable to lie to the police, sometimes it is best to say nothing at all.

  • You do not have to submit to the field sobriety tests. However, if the officer has probable cause to believe you are driving while impaired you are required by law to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test. If you refuse, you will likely be charged with violating the implied consent law. 

  • You are not obligated to drive through a checkpoint. If you can legally turn around or maneuver to a side street you may do so.

  • Remain calm and courteous.

Although DUI checkpoints do not violate the Fourth Amendment, other constitutional protections still apply.  For example, absent probable cause the police cannot search a person’s vehicle without consent. Therefore, if an officer requests consent to search a driver’s car, the driver has the right to refuse. Further, the police may not hold you for longer than necessary to complete the stop. Thus, if the police are holding you for longer than necessary to dispel a suspicion of wrongdoing or to identify people in the vehicle, the driver should ask if they are under arrest. If the answer is no, then the driver does not have to remain at the checkpoint.

    As with any traffic stop, there are exceptions to Fourth Amendment protections. If there is anything incriminating in plain view for the officer to see, that may give the officer probable cause to search or arrest the driver or even passengers.