Two rulings that were handed down by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday, Feb. 11, have made it easier for law enforcement officers in that state to stop and potentially arrest motorists whom they suspect of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In the two cases in question, police arrested drivers for DUI after stopping them for reportedly crossing over pavement markings. One traffic stop occurred in Knox County where a driver on a winding two-lane road allegedly crossed a double yellow line more than once. The other stop occurred on Interstate 65 South in Williamson County after a driver allegedly crossed a fog line on the right-hand side of the road in addition to touching the line twice with both of her right tires.
Drivers Argued That the Stops Were Illegal
Both drivers argued that police never should have stopped them for briefly not remaining within the road lines. Therefore, they asserted, the evidence of their impairment was illegally obtained.
The Tennessee justices unanimously disagreed. As one noted, crossing lines as these motorists did, while a "common driving infraction," is nonetheless against the law. Officers, they determined, have the right to stop someone for these types of violations if they choose to do so.
Police Have A "Great Deal of Discretion" Regarding Traffic Stops
Certainly no one should ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs or otherwise in no condition to drive. Beyond the obvious danger that you're posing to yourself, your passengers and others who are on or near the road, you also risk getting pulled over and arrested.
As one justice noted in this case, law enforcement officers have a "great deal of discretion in determining whether to initiate a traffic stop." If a traffic stop is legal and an officer suspects that you're under the influence, he or she can take action that can end in an arrest. While a judge may be sympathetic to the fact that you were pulled over for a minor violation, he or she is less likely to let the matter go if you were, indeed, determined to be driving under the influence.
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