TENNESSEE — Holidays are a convenient excuse to push the limits of the police power over citizens. All across the state, Tennessee police will be performing another round of highly-publicized “no refusal” blood-draw DUI checkpoints this weekend. With police armed with a 2012 law that allows them to forcibly extract blood from drivers, its a bad time to be a citizen who does not consent to searches.
Forcible blood draws began in Tennessee in 2009, being used only for cases of vehicular assault. In all other circumstances, the blood draws were not forcible. They could be declined, with the understanding the DUI suspect’s driver’s license would be suspended. Tennessee calls it the Implied Consent Statute.
That changed January 1, 2012, with the enactment of a new law that took away that choice for suspects to decline with a license suspension. Ever since the law took effect, police can obtain rubber-stamped warrants to forcibly extract blood from any driver they decide is a DUI suspect.
Additionally, the new law now mandates blood be drawn from citizens in a variety of circumstances. No longer limited to vehicular assault cases, police are not required to take the blood of any DUI suspect who has ever had a DUI conviction in their life, according to WBIR. The other requirement is that blood be drawn from any suspect who has a person under the age of 16 in the car. The rest of the blood-draw cases are done upon seeking a readily available warrant.
In light of these new powers, the latest fad in Tennessee law enforcement is setting up “no refusal” checkpoints, having a judge or a judicial commissioner on call to churn out blood warrants on demand. Rather than spread out across a town, looking for probable cause to stop vehicles, police set stop everyone, lacking any tangible reason to initiate each stop.
These so-called “no refusal” checkpoints involve police blocking a public road, sometimes forcing drivers into a parking lot, where they will be forced to prove their innocence to police officers. The lucky ones will be allowed to continue their journey down the public street after brief questioning and harassment. Drivers who draw police interest — say, for being less than thrilled about being subjected to police checkpoints on American streets — may be put through field sobriety tests and may ultimately told that they will either voluntarily submit to a search, or they will be forcibly be subjected to a search. I am referring to breath and blood searches.
This Labor Day weekend, at least a dozen counties in Tennessee will be launching the “no refusal” checkpoints, according to NewsChannel5.com. The state has been rolling out the checkpoints en masse on holiday weekends, getting the public acclimated to the idea of mandatory blood draws in the land of the free. View the NewsChannel5 coverage of the weekend checkpoint extravaganza here:
“Any time government is allowed to commit a seizure of your body and withdraw evidence prior to being arrested for a crime opens the door for a lot of issues,” said defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs, referring to the law change in 2012. “This law really opens Pandora’s box on virtually every DUI stop and weakens all of our fundamental freedoms.”
The blood draws, if they are anything like the ones performed in Georgia, involve hustling suspects back to the police station where they are strapped to a table, put in a headlock, and have their blood forcibly removed with a syringe. One man felt so violated by the procedure that hey asked, “What country is this?” saying that the practice reminded him of something that would go on inside a prison camp like Guantanamo Bay. For a closer look at “no refusal” checkpoints, don’t miss this SHOCKING exposé from Georgia:
Invariably, apologists will say, “If you don’t like dealing with police, don’t break the law.” Yeah, if only. That doesn’t work in a society where police go around performing random “stop & frisk” searches and conducting “no refusal” checkpoints. Encounters with police are no longer limited to being initiated based on suspicion of a crime being committed. “Don’t break the law” is a nonsense excuse, ignoring the modern state of law enforcement. Its becoming harder and harder to live without government agents interjecting themselves into your life. And if you think that innocent people don’t get harassed and charged with DUIs, tell that to Jessie Thornton.
I’m not disputing that drinking and driving is bad behavior. But it is simply wrong to treat people like they are guilty until proven innocent. Checkpoints are offensive tactics that would never be found in a truly free society. Police should spread themselves out and actually look for reasons to justifiably stop vehicles for breaking traffic laws, rather than shutting down traffic and harassing loads of innocent people. Furthermore, tying people down like animals and confiscating their blood for any DUI suspicion is horrifying policy.
The choice of refusal should remain for those who have objection to needles and moral objections to biometric samples being taken by the state. Tennessee’s old policy of driver’s license suspension upon refusal was superior to this new prison-style “no refusal” procedure. The scales have tipped way too far toward police power, in Tennessee and other states with these policies.