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Your Survival Guide to DUI Roadblocks in Tennessee

Zack Lawson Attorney at Bone McAllester NortonZack Lawson Attorney at Bone McAllester NortonAfter the New Year’s Eve ball drops and the confetti falls, thousands of Tennesseans will file out of the establishment of their choice and pile into a vehicle. As you put 2017 in your rear view, don’t be surprised to see blue lights in front of you on your way home. Every year, law enforcement officers set up DUI roadblocks on New Year’s Eve. At these roadblocks, police will legally stop you without any cause or suspicion. Given the strict penalties for DUI offenses in Tennessee, the stakes are high.

Unless you like jail and hate money, keep the following in mind:

  1. Don’t be dumb—use your smartphone: As you leave your New Year’s Eve gathering, it will be 2018—act like it. Use your smartphone. If you have been drinking, catch a ride using the app of your choice. If that’s not an option, call a friend or a cab. It just simply isn’t worth the risk. The best way to avoid getting arrested at a DUI checkpoint is to not drive through a DUI checkpoint.

  2. Don’t be a hero—roll down your window: You’ve probably seen some videos online of people “owning” the police by “knowing their rights.” Often, these people have no idea what they’re talking about. Some of them refuse to roll down their window in an effort to “exercise their rights.” You have to roll down your window. If you don’t, you’ll likely have to buy a new window after your buddy bails you out of jail.

  3. Don’t try to get chummy: You have the right not to say anything at all. This doesn’t mean they can’t ask questions. If you want questioning to stop, you must unequivocally state that you are exercising your right to remain silent. If you choose to speak, don’t try to chum it up with the officer. Officers are trained professionals. They will be doing their job, and their job is to arrest people for DUI. The more you talk, the more likely they are to believe they smell alcohol on your breath and that your speech is slurred.

  4. Present requested documentation: As with any traffic stop, if you’re pulled over at a DUI roadblock, you are required to provide your license and registration. Probable cause is not a prerequisite to checking your ID. Pro tip: Before you reach for your glove box or console for these items, ask permission from the officer. This will signal to the officer that you intend to be cooperative while also keeping you safe.

  5. If requested, step out of the vehicle: A common misconception is that police must have probable cause before they can require you to step out of the vehicle. In reality, officers have wide discretion in taking safety precautions. This includes asking you step out of your vehicle. This does not mean you are under arrest.

  6. Refuse field tests: Although officers sometimes lead drivers to believe they will be free to go if they pass a field sobriety test, this is usually not the case. Typically, field sobriety tests are a no-win situation. They are designed to be confusing and to be failed. And passing a test will usually just result in more tests until you make enough mistakes to warrant an arrest. Plus, aside from breath, urine, and blood tests, there is no consequence to refusal.

  7. Refuse searches: Never consent to a search. Ever. Don’t be fooled by an officer’s friendly demeanor. There is nothing to be gained.

  8. Call a lawyer: Just because DUI roadblocks can be constitutional does not mean they are always constitutional. The roadblock must comply with certain criteria, and the officers must comply with a myriad of laws, rules, and procedures. If you are arrested, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure your arrest was lawful and all your rights are protected.

Stay tuned for more information that digs deeper into each of these topics in addition to other subjects. If you have a question or you are arrested, call Zack Lawson directly at 615-238-6332 or reach him by twitter @Zack__Law.

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