Citizens who are not well versed in the law may mistakenly believe that they are required to submit to a search of their vehicle if a law enforcement officer pulls them over, or that they automatically must answer any and all questions asked of them by law enforcement officers. The truth is, you are not required to answer any questions (except to identify yourself), and you certainly are not required to consent to a search of your vehicle.
Both the U.S. Constitution and state of Tennessee’s Constitution protect citizens from illegal searches and seizures. What this means for a driver is that an officer must have either a warrant OR your express permission in order to search your vehicle during a traffic stop. If you give the officer verbal permission to search your vehicle, then you have waived your right to privacy and anything the officer finds may be used against you.
Additionally, the traffic stop that led to your arrest must have been conducted lawfully. This means that law enforcement officers may not arbitrarily pull over drivers who have not violated any laws. This also applies to roadblocks, as the law sets forth specific guidelines for how roadblocks must be conducted. Failure to abide by these rules may negate any findings or arrests stemming from the roadblock.
Probable cause lies at the heart of the Constitutions’ protection from illegal searches and seizures. This means that officers must have probable cause before they may pull you over, search your vehicle or place you under arrest.
Violations of traffic laws are probable cause to pull you over; having evidence in plain view, such as an open alcohol container, gives probable cause to conduct a vehicle search. Failure of a roadside sobriety test constitutes probable cause for your arrest.
If you have been arrested as a result of a traffic stop or roadblock, you should speak with an attorney and relay every detail surrounding the stop and your arrest. A knowledgeable attorney will have multiple avenues to explore in determining whether the stop was conducted lawfully.
Call the Garza Law Firm at (888) 680-7554 for a free case consultation if you are facing DUI charges in the state of Tennessee.