Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Providing Information at a Tennessee DUI Roadblock or Sobriety Checkpoint

Image courtesy of Naypong at
Image courtesy of Naypong at

At a typical sobriety checkpoint trying to identify drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, motorists are forced to stop their vehicle, roll down their window, and usually provide certain documentation to an officer.  The documentation generally includes a valid driver’s license, proof of registration and proof of financial responsibility (liability insurance). While the driver is gathering these documents, the officer may also ask questions about what the driver may or may not have been doing before reaching the checkpoint. The purpose of these questions is to assist the officer in identifying those driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Florida lawyer Warren Redlich disagrees with motorists being forced to roll down their window and verbally communicate with an officer at a sobriety checkpoint. In order to avoid

forced communication with an officer at a checkpoint, Mr. Redlich has developed state specific signs or placards intended to replace the responsibility of the motorist to roll the window down and answer questions. Some of the words in bold on these signs include “I remain silent,” “No Searches,” and “I want my lawyer.” Mr. Redlich’s opinion is that a motorist should not be forced to answer questions at a checkpoint.

Instead, Mr. Redlich believes it is sufficient to simply place the previously mentioned sign against the car window where it can easily be read. Anticipating being asked for one’s driver’s license, registration and insurance proof, Mr. Redlich suggests placing these items in a plastic bag and hang it from the driver’s window.

Peter Gerstenzang, a lawyer practicing in New York, thinks that using these signs “…[I]s really dumb.” See: He suggests if the motorist has nothing to hide then the motorist has no reason to use the sign at a sobriety checkpoint.

Steven Oberman, a lawyer practicing in Tennessee, echoes the thoughts of his colleague, Mr. Gerstenzang. If a motorist finds him/herself at a checkpoint (a common occurrence throughout Tennessee), the motorist should simply provide any requested documentation.

If the officer asks about conduct that may incriminate the driver or if the motorist is uncomfortable answering a question, he/she should politely decline to answer the question. The motorist should advise the officer that they feel they are being accused of a crime they didn’t commit and advise the officer that they prefer that any personal questions only be answered in the presence of their lawyer. The motorist should then ask if they are free to leave (this may later assist the motorist in defending any charge that may be brought against the motorist).

Following the advice of Mr. Redlich would, in the opinion of this author, only make it more likely that the investigating officer would find a reason to arrest the driver for DUI, a related driving offense, or perhaps even for “Obstruction of Law Enforcement” as prohibited by Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-16-602. As with other matters of importance, it is suggested to use your common sense rather than trying to take the advice of someone unfamiliar with the facts of your specific situation. It is always best to rely on the legal advice of a lawyer licensed in your state and familiar with the laws applicable to your case.


About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,000 DUI defendants.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.  Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the National College for DUI Defense.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 7th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen).  Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions.  He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 23 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.

You may contact Steve through his website at or by telephone at (865) 249-7200.

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Steve Oberman

Steve Oberman

Since graduating from the University of Tennessee Law School in 1980, Mr. Oberman has become established as a national authority on the intricacies of DUI defense law. Steve is a former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, co-author of a national treatise ("Drunk Driving Defense" published by Aspen/Wolters-Kluwer), and author of "DUI: The Crime and Consequences in Tennessee" (published by Thomson-Reuters/West). He has taught thousands of lawyers, judges, and members of the general public about the intricacies of this crime. Steve was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach American Criminal Law and American Trial Advocacy at the University of Latvia School of Law in 2019; in 2023 taught for a semester as a visiting professor at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary; and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Law in 2024. Steve has also presented at a number of judicial conferences in the United States and Canada as well as for law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Czech Republic Police Academy. As a Tennessee DUI attorney, Mr. Oberman has successfully defended over two thousand clients charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In 2006, Mr. Oberman became the first DUI lawyer in Tennessee to be recognized by the National College for DUI Defense as a Board Certified Specialist in the area of DUI Defense law.

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