Tennessee has a new Labor Day tradition. According to WKRN-TV, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will continue its “no refusal” blood-extraction DUI checkpoints this Labor Day weekend, starting on midnight on August 29 and continuing until midnight on September 1. Under “no refusal” enforcement, suspected drunk drivers will be forced to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test, even if they refuse.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security issued a press release on this weekend’s crackdown, saying, “State troopers will conduct ‘No Refusal’ enforcement in the following counties: Union (Knoxville District); Hamilton and Marion (Chattanooga District); Montgomery (Nashville District); Shelby (Memphis District); Hawkins (Fall Branch District); Smith (Cookeville); Maury (Lawrenceburg); and Hardin County (Jackson District).” The press release also describes how police coverage will work over the weekend, “In addition to ‘No Refusal’ enforcement, highway patrol personnel will also conduct driver’s license, sobriety and seat belt checkpoints, as well as saturation patrols and bar and tavern checks.”
Due to the disputed constitutionality of police checkpoints, Tennessee state law requires that their locations be publicly announced in advance so that Tennesseans who don’t want to be inconvenienced can adjust their routes. The locations of this weekend’s checkpoints can be found at this link.
Civil liberties advocates often question whether police checkpoints, which force motorists to submit to a criminal investigation on the basis of their geographic location rather than probable cause, violate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. Also, police positioned at checkpoints do not have an opportunity to see how a suspect has been driving and instead must rely on less-precise indicators like red eyes or fatigued behavior, which might also suggest that the suspect is coming home from a long work shift and not intoxicated at all. As more officers are placed at checkpoints, fewer can subsequently be assigned to patrols upon which they could watch for impaired motorists in the act of driving dangerously.
Forced blood extractions take place off-site at a police precinct, making the process time consuming for individuals who might be innocent. Additionally, for those who refuse to comply, extraction locations are equipped with tools to strap down suspects and masks to cover their faces.
Approval for involuntary blood draws is typically attained via telephone as judge magistrates will remain on standby throughout the weekend to handle officers’ requests.