Tennessee DUI Checkpoint: Thank You For Not Cooperating With Illegal Searches
In the United States, citizens are not the only ones under surveillance. With the increasing prevalence of mobile video, law enforcement officials are finding the camera aimed at them too.
In this video, a young man is stopped at a DUI checkpoint. He declines to completely roll down his window, and things go downhill from there. Although he declines to give consent to search his car, police use drug-sniffing dogs to create "probable cause."
The Supreme Court has that declared DUI checkpoints, properly conducted, are consistent with the Constitution. The opinion stated in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz (1988) reads as follows: "In sum, the balance of the state's interest in preventing drunken driving, the extent to which this system can reasonably be said to advance that interest, and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped, weighs in favor of the state program."
This balance of rights and public safety is far from saying that anything goes. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia allow DUI checkpoints, while 11 states do not.
Drunk driving is an important public safety issue. It has been found reasonable and constitutional for police to set up checkpoints in known problem areas to quickly screen for drunk drivers. The problem is that it also gives access to police to search you and your car without probable cause, if you give permission. This does not help stop drunk driving. It does put you at risk for police to charge you, correctly or not, with other crimes.
No one knows exactly how many laws there are. There are hundreds of local, state, and federal statutes, and thousands of additional administrative rules and regulations that have been incorporated by reference into our legal code. If one were to carefully investigate any law-abiding citizen, there would be ample opportunity to gather evidence of technical criminality.
Police are human beings. They can make mistakes. The powder residue on your seat may be from a doughnut, but it might look like drugs to them. If you are innocent, help the police not waste their time and yours. Do not consent to search.
If law-abiding citizens routinely refuse to give consent for unreasonable searches, then DUI checkpoints could move much more quickly and efficiently. This will help to catch more drunk drivers and make us all safer.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR
I am planning on printing this, laminating it, and keeping it in my car. If stopped by an officer, I will open the window part way, and hand it to him with my driver's license and registration.
Police should not feel threatened or suspicious when a law-abiding citizen refuses to consent to unreasonable searches. If you are brave enough to stand up to police who try to pressure you to waive your rights, I thank you.