How to Navigate a DUI Stop in Tennessee

Having to interact with a law enforcement officer during a simple traffic stop can be a nerve-wracking experience for most drivers. If that simple traffic stop morphs into a driving under the influence (DUI) investigation, the average person’s anxiety increases exponentially – even if they aren’t under the influence. Because it can happen to anyone, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains how to navigate a DUI stop in Tennessee.

How Is a DUI Investigation Initiated?

Law enforcement officers conduct traffic stops all the time. Some officers are directly assigned to watch for violations while others just happen upon violations that warrant a stop. Either way, a law enforcement officer must have a valid reason for conducting a traffic stop. They are, however, allowed to conduct pretextual stops. In layman’s terms, this means that they can use a relatively minor infraction, such as a burned-out license plate light, to conduct a stop when they suspect that they will uncover a more serious crime during the subsequent stop. 

In the case of a DUI investigation, an officer often conducts a stop after seeing common signs that a driver is driving under the influence, such as weaving, hesitating at a stop light, or driving without headlights at night. Sometimes, however, a vehicle is pulled over for an unrelated violation and it is only after the officer encounters the driver that a DUI investigation is initiated. Either way, the officer must have a valid legal reason for the initial stop and for continuing the investigation beyond the reason for the initial stop.

What to Expect During a Tennessee DUI Stop

Regardless of how a DUI investigation begins, it helps to know what to expect and what your rights are from there on out. With that in mind, consider the following when navigating a Tennessee DUI stop:

  • Questioning: A law enforcement officer has the right to request identification from you along with a request for your registration and proof of insurance. Beyond fulfilling those basic requests, you have the right to decline to answer further questions. If you choose to decline, do so respectfully and indicate that you are exercising your right to remain silent. If you choose to cooperate, keep in mind that admitting that you consumed “a beer” or that you smoked “a little” is likely to provide sufficient probable cause for your arrest.
  • Field Sobriety Tests: At some point, the officer may ask you to perform “field sobriety tests.” These are tests conducted at the scene that are intended to indicate when a person is under the influence. You are not required to perform these tests. FSTs are difficult to perform perfectly under ideal conditions. When performed by the average person on the side of a roadway in the middle of a criminal investigation they can be almost impossible to “pass.” Moreover, while the results of a FST cannot be introduced as evidence against you in a subsequent trial, those results can be used to form the probable cause necessary to arrest you.
  • Arrest: If the officer believes there is sufficient probable cause to arrest you, you will be placed under arrest and transported to jail. This is not the time to argue with the law enforcement officer. You will not talk the officer out of arresting you; however, you might say something that can be used against you down the road. Try to remain calm, decline to answer questions, and indicate that you wish to speak to an attorney.
  • Chemical breath test: Once you arrive at the jail or police station you will be asked to submit to a chemical breath test, the purpose of which is to test your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Tennessee’s implied consent law effectively means that by operating a motor vehicle in the State of Tennessee you implicitly give consent to be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs in your system. While you can still refuse a chemical breath test, there are consequences for doing so that include the automatic revocation of your driving privileges for a minimum of one year. Any period of revocation for refusing to consent to a chemical test will be in addition to any revocation you might receive if you are ultimately convicted of driving under the influence.

Contact a Murfreesboro DUI Defense Lawyer 

If you find yourself under arrest for DUI in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro DUI defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the tram today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett