I try to keep up with the local news, especially when they're announcing plans for DUI checkpoints at area intersections. After all, whom would I have to blame if they told me where to expect a sobriety checkpoint, yet I ignored their warnings and ended up in the hoosegow?
When I was checking out the on-line version of The Tennessean (motto: "Looking for the latest Taylor Swift photo? It's on page one, above the fold!") I saw something I had never heard of before... something called "No Refusal" checkpoints, and an advance warning that State Troopers and local law enforcement would be conducting "No Refusal" DUI checkpoints over the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
What the hell is a "No Refusal" checkpoint, you might ask? Well, I asked myself that question, and being a curious type when I'm a couple of cups of coffee into my day, I came into the office to look it up on the comp-ooter.
Apparently, our esteemed legislature in Nashville pushed through a new ordinance I'd not been made aware of at the time, one that some might consider unconstitutional.
When you're pulled over or stopped at a DUI checkpoint in Tennessee, you will have to speak to a police officer. That officer is looking to see if you're driving impaired, and if he suspects that to be the case he can ask you to comply with a request for a Breathalyzer test and/or a field sobriety test. The field sobriety test is where they take you out of your vehicle and have you perform Stupid Human Tricks on the side of the highway... Stand on one foot with your eyes closed, walk a line heel-to-toe, repeat the alphabet in reverse, determine the length of the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle, conjugate verbs in Latin, that sort of thing.
If you refuse to perform the field sobriety test ("Occifer, I can't do that shit even when I'm sober, for Christ's sake...") you will be charged under Tennessee's "non consent" clause, and lose your license. I suppose the right to refuse to provide incriminating evidence against oneself is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, and your rights preventing unnecessary searches is covered by the Fourth one, but I'm not a Bill of Rights scholar. All I know is, most attorneys will tell you that if you've been drinking or drugging, or taking your prescribed meds, it's best to refuse to participate in field sobriety tests or Breathalyzer exams.
Well, according to the article I looked up this morning (aren't you glad I do this sort of thing for you?) even if you refuse to submit to the field sobriety test, the police can haul you before a magistrate and request a search warrant from a judge. Once that warrant is signed by the judge and the arresting officer, EMTs will be summoned to draw blood from your arm, and that blood will be tested for alcohol and narcotics.
And unlike the old "implied consent" laws, you don't have any choice in the matter once that search warrant has been issued from the bench.
Don't want to give blood? Have a psychological fear of needles? Have religious tenets forbidding blood tests? Tough shit. All it takes to overrule your petty concerns is a police officer's affidavit and a judge's signature on the bench warrant. And if you don't want to comply with the blood test, I assume the police have more than one way to extract blood from unwilling citizens. Ask Rodney King.
Let's say you're driving down Rutherford Avenue here in Murfreesboro tomorrow night, and let's say you've not had a drink since Nixon resigned from office (it affected you THAT much!). Let's say you roll up behind cars stopped at a DUI checkpoint, and a officer with a very bright MagLight asks you to roll down your window and answer a few questions. He asks where you've been tonight, whether or not you've been drinking, asks to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Let's say you're one of those Constitutional scholars who fancies himself a Libertarian, and even though you've done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, you refuse to answer questions. Let's say the cop in question has an attitude about people with attitudes, and he decides you look as if you might be one of those pot smoking hippie types he saw in the training video at cop school... ("Reefer Madness"). Guess what's next on your evening's entertainment agenda?
That's right. You're going into town in handcuffs in the back of a police car. You're going to appear before a night judge who's probably not very happy to have a room full of belligerent drunks and Libertarians clogging up his docket, and that judge is going to issue a search warrant for the arresting officer to use. Then you'll be asked politely to roll up a sleeve, and if you want to get loud and rowdy, no doubt you'll find that the arresting officer has lots of friends who enjoy that sort of thing more than you love sex. You're giving blood, amigo. Like it or not, you're giving blood.
And if there's nothing illegal found in the evidence they collect, I guess you could ask for your blood back... I don't know. There wasn't anything in the article about getting your property back from the police when they're done with it.
Sounds like an argument Ron Paul would make, though.
Happy Labor Day, motorists!