In addition to making traffic stops based on probable cause, Tennessee law enforcement may also set up sobriety checkpoints to catch intoxicated drivers. Popular times and locations center around events or places that are likely to result in a higher level of drinking. The state government also posts advance notice of dates and places for checkpoints.
If you do run into a checkpoint, knowing how to act appropriately can prevent some serious mistakes. Even if you end up facing charges, the way you conduct yourself can make a difference in the effectiveness of your defense. Your best option is always to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as you can. Whether you think your case is hopeless or a slam dunk, it is in your best interest to get the facts rather than rely on assumptions.
Limit your interactions
Although officers can legally stop you at a checkpoint and investigate if they see signs of intoxication, you still do not have to provide unnecessary information. You should give them your license and registration and sustain a calm and polite demeanor while declining to answer questions about where you are coming from, whether you had anything to drink, and so on. Keep in mind our general advice about interacting with law enforcement officers, which also applies at a checkpoint.
Prepare for the stop
If you see a line for the checkpoint, use this time to get out your documents in advance. Keep your hands where officers can see them and remain calm. While it is normal for many to feel nervous during an encounter with law enforcement, visible signs of nervousness can come across as signs of impairment or a red flag for other wrongdoing.
Refuse vehicle searches
Police officers can only search your vehicle if you give them permission, if they have a warrant, or they can show probable cause to believe you are committing a crime. Do not consent to searches. They may go ahead anyway and claim probable cause, in which case you should not try to stop them; your lawyer may decide to challenge later on to exclude evidence they find this way. However, you do not have to help build the case against you by consenting.
Remember this: You don't have to perform field sobriety tests
By performing field sobriety tests, you are giving the police evidence that you may be impaired. You are not required to perform these tests.
Get legal help asap
If you are arrested at a sobriety checkpoint in Tennessee, speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Not every DUI arrest leads to a conviction.