What are Tennessee sobriety checkpoints?
A Tennessee sobriety checkpoint is a tool that Tennessee police use to evaluate random
drivers for signs of drug and alcohol impairment. A sobriety checkpoint may be a
stop on the road, freeway, or other public road. Law enforcement decides ahead of
time what process to use when stopping vehicles (for example, every third car is
If you are stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, the officer may ask for your license
and registration. They are primarily looking for signs of impairment. If they suspect
that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will perform a chemical
test and may also employ field sobriety tests or conduct a drug evaluation.
Are sobriety checkpoints legal?
In 1990, the United States Supreme Court declared that sobriety checkpoints did not
violate citizen's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
However, the Supreme Court decided that when these checks are preformed with minimal
intrusion under specified guidelines, the benefit of these checkpoints greatly outweighs
the minor intrusion on individual's rights. Each state has adopted laws of their
own regarding sobriety checkpoints. Currently, Tennessee allows the use of sobriety
What signs of impairment are they looking for?
The most common signs of impairment which are looked for during a Tennessee sobriety
• the odor of alcoholic beverages or drugs
• blood shot eyes
• the presence of alcoholic containers or drug paraphernalia in the vehicle
• slurred speech
• fumbling with your license or documents or other physical signs of intoxication
• admitting to the use of drugs or alcohol
What are my rights if I am stopped a Tennessee sobriety checkpoint?
As with any routine stop, you are required to provide identifying information such
as your name, address, driver's license, and registration. By law, you do not have
to say anything. REMAIN SILENT. Anything you say could potentially be used against
you. Admitting to drinking or consuming drugs (even in small amounts: “I just had
one!”) can be construed as admitting guilt. DON'T SAY ANYTHING.
Most police officers will not tell you this, but you do NOT have to take field sobriety
tests. Those are the one's where you have to walk a line, touch your nose, and do
other similar stunts. These are designed for failure. You are not required by law
to take these tests.
You ARE required, under implied consent laws, to submit to chemical testing of your
blood, breath, or urine, at the request of an officer. These may be done, out of
the flow of traffic, at the scene of the checkpoint, or you may be brought to a nearby
facility for this testing. If you are not arrested after testing, you are free to
leave and do not have to say anything.
Are there requirements for Tennessee sobriety checkpoints?
Yes, there are certain guidelines that Tennessee law enforcement must follow to ensure
that checkpoints do not qualify as unreasonable search and seizure. Each state uses
its own specific guidelines. The following guidelines are offered by the National
Highway Traffic and Safety Administration about sobriety checkpoints:
1. They must be part of an ongoing program to deter drunk driving.
2. They should have support from the judicial system
3. There must be established procedures for how to properly operate a Tennessee sobriety
or DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoint.
4. The selection of checkpoints must be done in the interest of public safety and
chosen for a specific objective (i.e. an unusual number of drunk driving accidents
in that area)
5. Drivers should be warned of an upcoming checkpoint.
6. Police presence should be obvious when approaching the checkpoint.
7. The logistics of chemical testing must allow expeditious transport of suspects
to a chemical test site.
8. Any change in the original planning of a checkpoint must be well documented in
advance of the Tennessee sobriety checkpoint.
9. Detection and investigation techniques must be well-planned and standardized.
These must be performed by qualified law enforcement. Investigation must take place
without impeding the flow of traffic.
10. The public should be aggressively informed of sobriety checkpoints with ample
warning so they can avoid them completely.
11. Feedback should be requested from citizens who are stopped to help determine
if the program is effective.