July 4th DUI Checkpoint Refusal Goes Viral

A young man entering a DUI checkpoint on the Fourth of July decided to record the incident to see what would happen if he asserted his rights during the encounter.

Chris Kalbaugh, a 21-year-old college student at Middle Tennessee State University drove through a Rutherford County, Tennessee, roadblock on July 4, 2013, with the intent of being polite, yet refusing to comply with anything the officers asked that would violate his constitutional rights.

The following video, which depicts the Kalbaugh's car being searched by drug dogs after he refuses to submit to a search, has gone viral, prompting criticism for both the officer who seems to bully the driver and for the young man who refuses to oblige the officer's request:

It is quite clear in the video that Officer A.J. Ross becomes agitated when Kalbaugh refuses to submit to his simple request to roll the window down further. Kalbaugh acknowledges that he can hear the officer clearly and that he does not need to roll the window down any further.

Ross, however, becomes angry and asks Kalbaugh's age--before asking for his name or identification. It seems from this exchange that Ross is simply annoyed that this "kid" didn't just roll over and willingly comply with whatever demands Ross felt empowered to make as an authority figure.

Perhaps most telling in this incident, which ended without any type of citation for Kalbaugh, was the statement of the police officer during the search of the student's car: "He's perfectly innocent, and he knows his rights. He knows what the Constitution says." Yet despite acknowledging Kalbaugh's innocence, he continues to search the vehicle.

As of this writing, Kalbaugh's video has received nearly 3.2 million hits on YouTube. Some viewers laud Kalbaugh for exposing violations of Constitutional rights; others say that he should have just rolled his window down and cooperated. Kalbaugh is a member of the Rutherford County Libertarian Party, and through a press release by the Libertarian Party of Tennessee, he said:

"I broke no laws and I made sure to be respectful the entire time while still exercising my Constitutional freedom. I wanted to show that I was not impaired and to get the confrontation over with.  When I got out, he demanded my ID even though I didn't break any laws or traffic violations.  They also said they were going to search my vehicle because the drug dog 'hit' on the vehicle.  I don't do any drugs and I have never had any illegal substances in my car.  When the officers said that the drug dog hit on my car, I became furious because I knew that was impossible.  All of this happened because I did not want to lower my window all the way, which was completely legal."

A criminal defense lawyer who viewed the video said that he did not notice that Kalbaugh's rights were violated in anyway, but that the video is a good tool for letting citizens know what their rights are and what can happen if they choose to assert them.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office released this statement: "We are looking into the matter to determine if there are any policy or procedure violations." DUI checkpoint refusal videos abound on YouTube. Some officers become agitated when their authority is questioned, and others respond calmly. You have constitutional rights, and you may assert them.

If you are questioned by police, you do not have to answer questions beyond providing your name and identification, and if an officer insists on continuing an encounter, you can politely ask, "Am I being detained, or am I free to go?" This will not likely endear you to police, but it does give them a heads up that you know your rights, and they will likely be less apt to abuse them.

If you are placed under arrest, an officer will inform you of your rights. Prior to arrest, you still have those rights, but you will not be read your Miranda rights. It is up to you to know your rights and verbally assert them. For more information on your rights when stopped or questioned by police or sheriff's deputies in Oklahoma, contact an attorney practicing criminal law.  

Comments