Recent TN Supreme Court Cases Could Impact Police Justification for DUI Stops

Tennessee police officers and state troopers have a duty to keep state roads safe by stopping vehicles when they suspect drivers are under the influence of alcohol.

In 2000, State v. Binette, a TN Supreme Court Case, ruled that police officers may “initiate a brief, investigatory traffic stop” if they suspect that a driver is committing a criminal offense or is about to commit a criminal offense. However, that case also ruled that minor driving errors, like slight weaving in a lane of travel, should not constitute a valid reason for a police officer to stop a motorist. This has been a very important case in DUI defense and our firm has used this case on numerous occasions to suppress evidence and win cases.

State v. Linzey Danielle Smith and State v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr.

Two recent cases heard by the state’s Supreme Court could challenge that ruling and change the driving behaviors and errors necessary for police officers to pull over drivers and conduct sobriety tests.

  • State v. Linzey Danielle Smith
    Linzey Smith was traveling north on Interstate 65 in Williamson County at 3 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2012, when a police officer saw his vehicle’s right tires twice touch and once cross over the right fog line of the roadway. After following Smith’s vehicle for some distance, the officer initiated a stop and eventually arrested him for DUI.
  • State v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr.
    William Whitlow Davis, Jr., was traveling on Keller Bend Road in Knox County at 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2009, in his green BMW. An officer with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office received a call to be on the lookout for the vehicle, which he soon spotted and began following. The officer stated that he observed the vehicle cross the yellow double line multiple times. The officer initiated a traffic stop and arrested Davis for DUI.

Could These TN Supreme Court Cases Change the Way Police Enforce DUI Laws?

Due to both DUI convictions being upheld by the Tennessee Supreme Court and the court upholding both officers’ reasoning for stopping the drivers, police officers in the state may now have greater freedom when deciding to stop and pull over drivers that they suspect are under the influence of alcohol.

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