Viral video depicting illegal search of student’s car at DUI checkpoint spurs police investigation

The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office has launched an internal investigation after a video depicting an officer detaining a college student and searching his car on July 4, received nearly three million views on YouTube.

In a statement released Friday evening, the sheriff’s office said the department was “reviewing the incident” and “looking into the matter to determine if there are any policy or procedure violations.”

In the video, Chris Kalbaugh, a 21-year old student at Middle Tennessee State University, appeared to pull into a DUI checkpoint where he declined to comply with an officer’s request to fully lower his window and repeatedly asked whether or not he was being detained.

The officers, who seemed angered by Kalbaugh’s questioning, ordered him to pull over and and exit the vehicle before performing a search of the car even though Kalbaugh refused to give them his consent.

WATCH: Officers detain college student, illegally search his vehicle

On the tape, which was secretly recorded from the passenger’s side, the officers admit that Kalbaugh was likely within his constitutional rights to decline search and detention without being accused of a crime.  

“He is perfectly innocent and he knows his rights,” Deputy A.J. Ross can be heard saying in the video. “He knows what the Constitution says.”

Earlier in the film, when Kalbaugh asked if he is being “detained” the officers also challenged his knowledge of the law.

“Are you an attorney or something?” asks the officer. “You know what the law is?”

“Yes Sir, I do,” responds Kalbaugh.

“Okay, what is the law,” counters Deputy Ross.

“The law says at checkpoints I have to stop and I did,” says Kalbaugh.

“I am not required to answer any questions,” he adds. “I have constitutional freedom to travel without being randomly stopped and questioned.”

The incident, which took place at a DUI checkpoint in Rutherford County, began when Kalbaugh rolled down his window partially, rather than fully, and asked if he was being detained.

The officers ordered Kalbaugh to pull his vehicle to the the side of the road and exit it. While Kalbaugh apparently stood on the side of the road, the officers allowed a dog to climb around the vehicle before declaring their suspicion that narcotics were onboard.

During the search, which yielded no drugs, the officers appeared distraught upon discovering Kalbaugh’s camera recording from the passenger seat.

“It’s running,” said the officer before turning the camera so it could no longer capture the search.  

In a statement provided to Campus Reform by the Libertarian Party of Rutherford County, Kalbaugh, who is a member, said he has never carried narcotics in his vehicle.

“I don’t do any drugs and I have never had any illegal substances in my car,” said Kalbaugh.

Kalbaugh added that he made the video to help protect the rights of rights of Tennesseans.

“This video was not made to be disrespectful to law enforcement at all,” he said.  “There are plenty of great cops in Tennessee that do not believe in going outside of the law to take away Constitutional freedom. Having rights is not disrespectful.”

Follow the authors of this article on Twitter: @josiahryan, @oliverdarcy