Posts Tagged Tennessee DUI laws

Tennessee No Refusal DUI Enforcement

Several Knoxville media outlets are reporting increased Tennessee DUI enforcement for the upcoming holiday.  Please visit the following links for these stories: Troopers will enforce No Refusal campaign over New Year’s Eve holiday or Police step up DUI enforcement during New Year’s.

The increased enforcement is set to begin at 6 p.m. tonight and end at midnight on Tuesday (New Year’s Day).  We frequently receive questions about a person’s rights in relation to a blood or breath test following a Tennessee DUI arrest.  The Tennessee Highway Patrol plan to implement the “no refusal” law during this busy holiday period highlights one of the most common question we field–what does “no refusal” mean?

Often, following a DUI arrest, the Tennessee officer will offer an arrestee the ability to refuse to submit to a chemical test of the officer’s choice (blood, breath or urine).  Tennessee law, however, also provides that even if the arrestee refuses to submit to a chemical test, the office can obtain a search warrant to forcefully obtain the sample.  During these “no refusal” enforcement periods, the Tennessee Highway Patrol typically has a Tennessee judge (or judges) on call.  If the judge determines that the requisite legal grounds (based on the officer’s DUI investigation) exist, a search warrant can be obtained allowing the officer to obtain a chemical test (most often a blood sample), even over the objection (or refusal) of the motorist placed under arrest.

More information about the Tennessee Implied Consent Law can be found by visiting our website or in the prior blog post, “Tennessee DUI No Refusal Weekends.” You may also contact our attorneys, Steve and Sara, by calling 865-249-7200. Even during this busy holiday season, the attorneys at Oberman & Rice are available to speak with you 24/7.

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Wishing You a Safe & Happy New Year

The Knoxville Police Department has announced plans for a “New Year Holiday Enforcement Campaign.”  The increased enforcement will focus on motorists who are speeding, following too closely or driving recklessly, as well as those who show signs of impaired driving (driving under the influence).  More information about the KPD holiday enforcement plans can be found by clicking here.  The increased patrols will begin at 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and conclude at midnight on New Year’s Day.

Should you or a loved one be arrested for DUI (driving under the influence) or related charges, the attorneys at Oberman & Rice are available to assist you.  You may contact Steve and Sara by calling 865-249-7200.  You may also wish to visit www.tndui.com for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee.

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DUI Vehicle Forfeiture: What you should know if you receive a “Notice of Seizure”

The Tennessee Department of Safety, through law enforcement officers, may seize the vehicle of anyone suspected of multiple DUIs.  A vehicle may also be seized from anyone found to be driving on a revoked, cancelled, or suspended license if the reason for the revoked, cancelled, or suspended license was a DUI conviction.  In other words, a person convicted of a DUI risks vehicle seizure if he or she is found to be driving without a valid license or is suspected of DUI, regardless of whether there is a conviction.

When a citizen’s property is seized, the government, which is typically be represented by the Tennessee Department of Safety in cases involving vehicle and asset forfeiture, must follow the rules.  Multiple state laws, court cases, and administrative rules govern the forfeiture process.  Furthermore,  constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and against excessive fines may apply to forfeiture proceedings just as they do criminal proceedings.

The Department of Safety rules and regulations are complicated and often intimidating.  Nevertheless, failure to take action within strict time limits may result in the loss of property rights.  If you or someone you know has had property seized by law enforcement, it is important to contact a Tennessee criminal attorney immediately.  You may contact Steve and Sara by calling (865) 249-7200.  You may also wish to review our website for additional information about forfeitures.

[Source: T.C.A. Section 55-10-401 et seq., Williams v. State Dept. of Safety, 854 S.W.2d 102 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1993), Stuart v. State Dept. of Safety, 963 S.W.2d 28 (Tenn. 1998)]

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DUI: Misdemeanor or Felony?

A First Offense DUI in Tennessee is always a Misdemeanor (sentence of less than 1 year in jail) if no accidents, injuries, or deaths result from the offense.  However, all DUI convictions require defendants to serve at least 48 hours in jail, which is a harsher punishment than a defendant would receive for most other Misdemeanors.

Even though Second and Third Offense DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, the mandatory minimum sentences are 45 and 120 days respectively for Second and Third Offenses.  A Fourth or subsequent DUI Offense is a Felony Offense (sentence of 1 year or more in jail) and, upon conviction, requires that a defendant serve 150 days in jail.  These mandatory jail sentences are significantly harsher than mandatory minimum sentences for nearly every other Misdemeanor Offense.

Jail time is one of many penalties that are unique to DUI.  Please visit TNDUI.COM for more details about the penalties for DUI offenses in Tennessee.   A Tennessee DUI attorney can help you avoid the harshest punishment.  Please contact Knoxville DUI attorneys Steve and Sara at (865) 249-7200 if you have any DUI-related questions.

[Source: T.C.A. 55-10-403]

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Can I be convicted of DUI when in a parked vehicle?

Yes.  In Tennessee, it is possible to be convicted of a DUI while sitting in a parked vehicle with or without the engine running.  According to Tennessee DUI law, a state prosecutor need only prove that an impaired person was “in physical control” of an “automobile or motor driven vehicle” in order to obtain a conviction.   Court decisions in Tennessee have confirmed that a person, in a parked car, with the keys in the ignition, may be convicted of a DUI.

However, the DUI law in Tennessee does not assure that the state prosecutor will succeed in such a case.  A person is not ‘automatically’ guilty when found in a vehicle with the keys in the ignition.  A Tennessee DUI attorney should investigate the location of arrest, actions of law enforcement, and any proof of impairment in order to find additional weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case.

Regardless of a defendant’s location and circumstances, everyone accused of a DUI should consult with a DUI attorney as soon as possible.  If you have questions about the facts of a case, Steve and Sara are ready to help you.  You may reach all of our attorneys by calling (865) 249-7200.

[Source: T.C.A. 55-10-401]

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Tennessee DUI No Refusal Weekends

I am often asked about the “No Refusal Weekends” you may have heard about recently.    Allow me to answer two of the many questions I have received.

First, the Tennessee Implied Consent Law (refusing a blood, breath, or urine test pursuant to T.C.A. § 55-10-406) is not legally suspended for that particular weekend.   It is never suspended.

Second, you have not lost the right in all circumstances to refuse to provide a sample for chemical analysis even if the Tennessee officer believes you are driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant such as alcohol or another drug.

These time periods for increased DUI detection efforts, like the 2012 Knox County, TN July 4th weekend, simply mean that special arrangements have been made to assist officers to apply to a Judge or Magistrate for a search warrant to obtain evidence (such as a sample of blood, breath or urine from a driver suspected of DUI).  If the search warrant is granted, the officer may force the driver to provide a sample of bodily fluid for testing of alcohol or other drugs.   Be aware, however, that there are some circumstances under the law when you do not have the right to refuse the extraction of a blood sample or the administration of a breath test, or both.

If you have been forced to provide a sample of blood or breath as a result of your DUI arrest, all is not lost. Your constitutional rights apply in these circumstances as well. If the chemical sample is obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, the results of your chemical test may not be admissible in court.

For further information on “No Refusal Weekends,” the Implied Consent Law or forced blood draws, you may wish to check out our sister blog, www.duinewsblog.org, you may review additional information on our website, www.tndui.com or you may call Steve Oberman at the Oberman and Rice Law Firm at 865-249-7200.

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Tennessee Laws Get Tougher

At least two Tennessee laws have made it more difficult to defend persons accused of driving under the influence and, in another change, the DUI penalty when accompanied by someone under the age of 18 has increased.

The 2012 Tennessee Legislature amended Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-406, also known as the Implied Consent Law.  This law applies when an officer requests the suspect to submit to chemical testing (blood, breath, or urine).  The amendment clarified that an individual may be compelled to submit to a chemical testing if the testing is mandated by:

  1. A Court Order;
  2. A search warrant; or
  3. When a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a driver of a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury or death of another is guilty of vehicular  homicide, aggravated vehicular homicide, or DUI.

 

The Legislature also amended Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-402 to clarify that no defense to DUI exists when a person is under the influence of an intoxicant even if they are entitled to lawfully use the substance/intoxicant.

Moreover, the penalty for a person convicted of DUI who was accompanied by a person under the age of 18 was enhanced.  It now requires a mandatory minimum period of 30 days in jail and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.00.  This law, which amended Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-403, states that the incarceration enhancement must be served in addition to, and at the conclusion of, any jail time and fine otherwise imposed for the underlying DUI offense.  Likewise, the fine enhancement must be in addition to any fine imposed by law as a result of the Tennessee DUI conviction.

Laws such as these emphasize the importance of hiring a Tennessee lawyer who is educated about the newest laws and prepared to aggressively defend you.  Too many people are wrongfully accused of driving under the influence and related charges.  If you would like further information about these laws, or your case, you may contact the Oberman and Rice Law Firm at (865) 249-7200.

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Your blood can now be taken by someone not certified to do so.

In his March 7, 2012 post, Steve Oberman posed the question, “Would you want your blood taken by someone not certified to do so?” He was referring to Tennessee Senate Bill 2787/House Bill 2858, which eliminates the requirement that a phlebotomist permitted to draw blood from a Tennessee DUI suspect be certified or nationally registered.  I am sorry to report that this bill passed, becoming Public Chapter No. 0666, and became effective on April 4, 2012.

This new law allows blood to be drawn by a “trained phlebotomist who is operating under a hospital protocol, has completed phlebotomy training through an educational entity providing such training, or has been properly trained by a current or former employer to draw blood.”  The website www.phlebotomycertificationguide.com explains the typical certification process for phlebotomists and provides training course length than ranges from 4 to 24 months.  As discussed in Steve’s previous post, Tennessee law does not specify the amount of training required.  Certainly a very minimal amount of training could qualify one under this new law considering  the fact that the person need only receive training from “a current or former employer.”

The lawyers at Oberman & Rice continue to monitor pending legislation that impacts the criminally accused, paying particular attention to those involving Tennessee DUI cases.  Should you have any questions about a pending Tennessee DUI law or issue, you may contact Steve, Sara, or Nate by calling (865) 249-7200.  You may also wish to review our website for additional information about Tennessee DUI Laws by clicking here.

 

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Would you want your blood taken by someone not certified to do so?

In 2012 Senate Bill 2787, Senator Brian Kelsey, a Republican from Germantown (part of Shelby County), has sponsored a bill allowing a person who is “properly trained,” but not necessarily certified to draw the blood of a person suspected of DUI to determine alcohol and/or drug content. What should concern Tennessee citizens is that this bill removes the requirement found in current law (T.C.A. Section 55-10-410 which deals with drawing blood in driving under the influence/implied consent violation situations) that the person drawing the blood shall be:

A registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, clinical laboratory technologist, clinical laboratory technician, licensed emergency medical technician, licensed paramedic or, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, licensed emergency medical technician approved to establish intravenous catheters, technologist, or certified and/or nationally registered phlebotomist or at the direction of a medical examiner or other physician holding an unlimited license to practice medicine in Tennessee under procedures established by the department of health.

Remarkably, there are no provisions in this bill detailing the amount of training or even requiring that the person drawing the blood pass a proficiency test.  Nor are there provisions requiring a judge to determine that probable cause (the legal grounds required for arrest) exists before the blood is taken from the body.

While I am certainly far from a health care professional, I have had substantial experience as a non-certified phlebotomist when I worked in a hospital blood laboratory, albeit about 35 years ago.  I am aware of some of the potential complications from an improper blood draw such as thrombophlebitis, infection, damage to blood vessels, hematoma/bruising, and damage to the nerves near the venipuncture site.

Moreover, the proposed law gives no consideration to the fact that the officer may suffer from a contagious disease, is working in poor lighting conditions, or may be distracted by law enforcement duties during the blood draw. If a medical condition occurs during a blood draw—the criminally accused would have no immediate access to a healthcare provider for treatment.  In some situations, such as infection, the symptoms, etc. may manifest long after the actual blood draw.

Not surprisingly, the proposed law provides that the person drawing blood shall not incur any civil or criminal liability as a result of drawing the blood, except for damages that may result from negligence.  This means that a law enforcement officer with minimal training would be allowed to draw blood from a suspect with their arm on the hood of the police vehicle or similar unsterile environment.  This could be done without supervision from any other person, opening the door to abuse and negligence that would be difficult to prove except in a rare circumstance where the invasion of one’s body would be documented by video.

In 2006, Ann Japenga, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote about her debilitating injury that, after much suffering, was determined to have been caused by the needle going through her vein and causing dangerous but invisible bleeding into her arm.  The injury, caused by a phlebotomist in her doctor’s office, required surgery “to prevent permanent loss of the use of [her] arm, as well as a condition called “claw hand” that causes your digits to curl up like a sea anemone.”  The full article can be accessed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/30/health/30case.html.

Simply allowing the injured party to sue for negligence, as Senator Kelsey proposes, is not an appropriate remedy.  This type of case would have limited allowances for recovery.  With few exceptions, Tennessee law limits recovery against governmental entities to the amount of $300,000.00 pursuant to The Governmental Tort Liability Act.  Furthermore, this type of recovery would likely require the services of a civil lawyer who would (and should) charge a fee for his or her services.  Accordingly, the injured party would likely receive less than two-thirds of a recovery after attorney fees.  Moreover, expert fees, deposition costs and other trial expenses would have to be borne by the injured party.

If you have ever had a medical professional who is certified to draw your blood need to “stick” you on several occasions to obtain a sufficient sample, you can only imagine the type of abuse a suspect would receive from an uncertified law enforcement official.  I urge you to contact your Legislator to vote against this bill.

It is also most interesting that Senator Kelsey is sponsoring another bill making it a crime that carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail for a law enforcement officer to unlawfully install a tracking device on a person or object (2012 Senate Bill 3046).  If he doesn’t trust a police officer to comply with a citizen’s right to privacy, how in the world would he expect an officer not to abuse a suspect when they stick a sharp object into their arm or other part of their body?

The lawyers at Oberman & Rice frequently monitor pending legislation that impacts the criminally accused, paying particular attention to those involving Tennessee DUI cases.  Should you have any questions about a Tennessee DUI issue, you may contact Steve, Sara, or Nate by calling (865) 249-7200.  You may also wish to review our website for additional information about Tennessee DUI Laws by clicking here.

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How long can a person go to jail for a Tennessee DUI?

The number of prior DUI convictions in a defendant’s past significantly affects the amount of jail time a defendant may expect to serve if he or she is convicted of a Tennessee DUI.  It is important to note that the prior convictions need not be from Tennessee.  Even out of state DUI convictions can be used against a person accused of committing a Tennessee DUI offense.

Tennessee DUI law requires minimum amounts of jail time to be served for all DUI convictions.  If a defendant is convicted of a DUI, the judge MUST sentence that defendant to the minimum amount of time established by Tennessee DUI law, ranging from 48 hours in jail up to 150 days in jail, depending upon the offense.  On the other hand, the judge may sentence a defendant to more than the mandatory minimum amount of time – this is more likely to occur with multiple convictions.  Please visit our website for a full list of penalties for DUI convictions.

TN DUI lawyers know that any time in jail causes a major disruption in a person’s life, which is why anyone charged with DUI in Tennessee should consult with a Tennessee DUI attorney as soon as possible.  If you have questions about your Tennessee DUI charge and associated penalties, our lawyers are available to assist you.  Sara, Steve, or Nate will be happy to speak with you at (865) 249-7200.  

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