According to USAToday.com, a recent video from a Tennessee DUI stop has gone viral, racking up thousands of views on YouTube. The video, showing the interaction between a college student, Chris Kalbaugh, and a Rutherford County police officer, Deputy A.J. Ross, has prompted substantial outcry online with many saying the video represents the problems with baseless police searches.
The incident began when Kalbaugh’s car was stopped at a DUI checkpoint. Rather than do whatever the officer said, the college student instead refused to submit to follow orders that he disagreed with. For one thing, Kalbaugh lowered his widow enough so that the officer could see in and pass documents, but would not roll it all the way down. This set off a chain reaction and led to a verbal altercation between the two. Ross then went and found a police drug dog to search the student’s car, all with no basis. Rutherford County police claim that the drug dog identified two marijuana seeds in the passenger compartment of the vehicle and that the drug dog’s positive response justified Ross’s behavior.
Kalbaugh denies ever using marijuana and provided a local newspaper with drug test results showing he is drug free. Kalbaugh also says that if such seeds were found it’s surprising that the officers that night never bothered to take any substance for sampling and never arrested Kalbaugh with possessing an illegal drug. Instead, after more than 20 minutes of arguing Ross sent the student on his way without so much as a citation.
Legal experts have been critical of the search, saying that the whole incident is troubling. One professor of criminal law at Middle Tennessee State University said that he was troubled that the search was ever initiated. The expert noted that unless Ross noticed any obvious indications of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol or red eyes, Kalbaugh never should have been pulled over at all.
The expert said that once it was determined Kalbaugh was sober, there was absolutely no reasonable basis to search the student’s vehicle. The only thing that made Kalbaugh suspicious was the way he spoke to the officers and many see the search as a vindictive act and not something that was based in a real concern for public safety.
For their part, Rutherford County officials are standing by the officer’s actions, saying that an investigation has not been able to find any evidence of violations of state or federal law.
The episode raises questions about what does go on at a DUI checkpoint and what drivers’ rights are. First things first, police cannot search your car at a checkpoint unless they have probable cause or you grant them permission. This means you must be visibly intoxication or present other indications that you are impaired. Without that, police officers are not permitted to randomly poke around looking for incriminating evidence.
You are also not required to answer any questions that you don’t want to. Rather than be purposely rude or confrontational, if you are asked whether you’ve been drinking, you can simply say that you’d rather not answer that question. You also do not have to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a breathalyzer if you do not want to, but understand that these actions can incur penalties such as the loss of your driver’s license.
Source: “Sheriff breaks silence on viral DUI checkpoint video,” by Becca Andrews, published at USAToday.com.