A recent incident at a DUI checkpoint once again raised questions on what rights an individual has when s/he is flagged down by police-a question a lawyer in Gallatin, TN and people in other places often discuss. When a student of Middle Tennessee State University was pulled over in Rutherford County on July 4, 2013, what could have been a routine stop-and-search turned into something more controversial.
According to The Tennessean, 21-year-old Chris Kalbaugh had a hidden video camera installed in his car, which then recorded what happened at the DUI checkpoint. The video showed tensions flaring after Kalbaugh was told by Rutherford County Sheriff’s Deputy A.J. Ross to lower his window. Kalbaugh lowered it a few inches yet refused to bring it down further. Officers then forced him to the side of the road and told him to step out, but he refused and cited his “constitutional right to travel freely without being randomly stopped and detained.”
Kalbaugh’s video captions also indicated Deputy Ross telling him that civil liberties and constitutional rights can be suspended for reasons of safety. All the while, however, Kalbaugh was never asked if he had been drinking. He was later permitted to leave without any citation and with his hidden camera. Since the incident, the Rutherford County Sheriff’s office has stated that they are investigating what happened.
Kalbaugh’s video was posted online and gained considerable attention. On YouTube, the recording was viewed over 4 million times and received more than 50,000 comments. On the online community Reddit, the video hit the top spot for that day it was posted.
Various insights on the issues raised by Kalbaugh’s case can also be found online. Bruce Frazier, a spokesman at the Dalton Police Department, said that someone who hasn’t committed a crime can be required to cooperate with police in certain cases. His department is investigating a similar incident in Georgia, as described by The Dalton Daily Citizen. In turn, Kenneth J. Phillips, a Gallatin family lawyer who handles DUI cases, said that officers can pull someone over for any number of reasons to ask questions and determine whether or not an arrest is appropriate.
Phillips emphasized that an individual does not have to answer questions relating to DUI because it is rarely in that person’s best interest to do so. Unless the person can honestly say that s/he has not been drinking at all, it is often better to politely refuse answering DUI-related questions.
Moreover, if one does not have a video camera on hand to record any questionable incidents at DUI checkpoints, it is best to go through the events one by one with an attorney that can shed light on them.