(Memphis) Labor Day weekend, law enforcement in Tipton and Shelby counties are setting up checkpoints to stop drunk drivers. Only this time, they will have the ability to immediately obtain a warrant for a blood test, if the driver refuses.
The ability to obtain a warrant for a blood test on any suspected drunk driver comes from a law recently passed by Tennessee lawmakers.
“This is a wonderful opportunity that has been given to us by the general assembly, to take the best evidence that we have in prosecuting impaired drivers, and make sure that we get a conviction,” said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.
But David Willis, a DUI defense lawyer, senses trouble with this system down the road.
Willis said a warrant is issued when there is probable cause.
“There are constitutional problems. This is a free country. Before the state does something to its citizens, it has to have legal justification. And in this case, they’re going to force them to provide blood, and whether or not they have the legal basis to do that, I think that’s going to be the subject of certainly litigation,” Willis said.
To make matters more complicated, a checkpoint or road block must follow certain procedures. The set-up allows officers to make stops, sometimes at random.
“A lot of innocent-type behavior, they can mistake for under the influence. And then next thing you know, you could be giving blood, whether you want to or not,” Willis said.
Tiara Douglas is a young driver. When she first heard of the “no refusal” checkpoints, she said, “I don’t understand what this is, but it sounds crazy. All of it does.”
But since Douglas would never drink and drive, she said she would be ok with letting the officer test her blood alcohol level.
“If I know I ain’t been drinking, and I want to prove him wrong, I’m going to let him do it,” she said.
Tracy Denton feels the same way. Denton can also see how this could work as a scare tactic to stop people from driving drunk.
“People tend to indulge more during the holidays, and I certainly agree with the safety issue,” Denton said.
The “no refusal” stops were done over the July 4th weekend in five other Tennessee counties. There were no traffic fatalities that weekend.
Over Labor Day weekend, there will be 16 counties with these checkpoints, including Tipton and Shelby counties.