Posts Tagged Tennessee DUI laws

U.S. Supreme Court Requires Search Warrants for Blood Draws in Many DUI Cases

Tennesseans charged with the crime of Drunk Driving (DUI/DWI) may have a new defense.  On April 17, 2013 the United States Supreme Court ruled, “… in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.” Instead, the court determined that exigency in this context must be determined on an individual basis dependent on the totality of the circumstances in each case.  See Missouri v. McNeely (Docket No. 11-1425).

So what does this mean for Tennessee DUI defendants?

First, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court sets forth the minimum privacy rights guaranteed by our federal Constitution.  Tennessee Courts are required by law to follow the ruling of this decision.

Second, if a person suspected of a DUI in Tennessee decides to invoke his or her right to refuse the arresting officer’s request for a blood sample, it is likely that the officer will need to obtain a search warrant in order to legally proceed to obtain a blood sample over the suspect’s objection.  If a blood sample is obtained without a search warrant even if the suspect refused, and there is no justification of urgency based upon the facts of the case, the blood test results may be inadmissible as evidence against the suspect.

As a result of this Supreme Court decision, some Tennessee law enforcement agencies are now obtaining a search warrant in every instance where a blood test is appropriate.  Should this occur in your DUI case, the Tennessee Statute (T.C.A. or Tennessee Code Annotated) that authorizes refusal of a chemical test (T.C.A. 55-10-406) is trumped by the search warrant and the suspect should cooperate with the officer in order to avoid a physically compelled withdrawal of one’s blood.

The legal analysis to be applied in each case can be complicated.  It is therefore important for someone charged with the offense of DUI to hire a lawyer familiar with this issue.  I am proud to state that in the McNeely opinion, the concurring and dissenting opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts referred to the legal text, Drunk Driving Defense, in a footnote.  As regular readers of this blog know, this text is co-authored by Lawrence Taylor (California DUI attorney) and the managing partner of this law firm.  Should you find yourself in need of a Tennessee attorney, the DUI defense lawyers at Oberman & Rice are ready to assist you.  Our lawyers can also be reached by calling (865) 249-7200.


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Knoxville Sobriety Checkpoint Scheduled for February 1, 2013

The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) continues its drunk driving enforcement with the use of sobriety checkpoints in the Knoxville.  THP is scheduled to conduct a DUI Roadblock tonight, February 1, 2013 on Concord Road at Northshore Drive (State Route 332).  Although specific times have not been released, the Tennessee Highway Patrol Media Release indicates that it will be conducted “Late Night.”  The Knox County DUI Checkpoint is one among many in East Tennessee as part of the campaign, “Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk This Super Bowl Sunday.”

According to Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott, this will be the first THP “No Refusal” DUI enforcement on Super Bowl weekend.  One purpose of Tennessee DUI Checkpoints is to deter motorists from driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.  We encourage you to arrange for a designated driver this weekend.  AAA of East Tennessee is also offering their safe ride program for Super Bowl Sunday.  AAA will tow your car within a 10 mile radius and provide you a safe ride home.  To take advantage of this service, a AAA membership is not needed.

Anyone arrested for DUI (driving under the influence), or another related charge, should immediately contact a Tennessee DUI Attorney familiar with Tennessee DUI laws.  For more information about the crime of DUI or about your legal rights with respect to a Tennessee Highway Patrol checkpoint,  Steve and Sara are available by calling 865-249-7200.  You may also wish to visit for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee.


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Revoked License Reporting Error

In accordance with a Tennessee state law that was passed in 2011, the Knox County government provided the Tennessee Department of Safety with a list of people who had failed to pay their litigation taxes and fines (often referred to as “court costs”) within one year after their criminal cases were resolved.  As a result, nearly 1,300 motorists who faced a criminal offense in Knox County in 2012, including traffic offenses, received a letter earlier this month informing them that their driver licenses would be revoked for failing to timely pay their court costs. Unfortunately, as the  Knox News Sentinel reported on January 25, 2013, officials recently discovered that many people should not have been included on the list submitted to the Department of Safety.  According to the Knox News Sentinel, over 500 people never owed court costs or had timely completed their obligations to the court.  Even though the Department of Safety has been notified of the error, the consequences of this mishap remain unclear.   For more information about this developing story, read Clerical Error May Cause Wrongful Revocation of Driver’s License by our firm’s managing partner Steve Oberman.

It is important to note that Driving on a Revoked License is a criminal offense, and an officer may immediately arrest anyone found driving with a revoked license.  Moreover, a person who drives while his or her license is revoked as the result of a DUI conviction will be made to serve at least 48 hours in jail if convicted of Driving on a Revoked License.  Please contact Steve and Sara for further assistance if you have a question about your driver’s license.  You may reach our attorneys by calling (865) 249-7200.

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Knoxville Area Sobriety Checkpoints Begin Tonight

A media release from the Tennessee Highway Patrol dated December 27, 2012 details the agency’s statewide plan for New Year’s Eve DUI enforcement.  In addition to the “no refusal” enforcement discussed in my last post, THP also plans to implement several checkpoints between now and New Year’s Day.  These include not only sobriety checkpoints (DUI roadblocks), but also “no refusal” sobriety checkpoints and driver’s license checkpoints.

Tennessee Highway Patrol regulations generally require that every driver passing through a checkpoint location be stopped and questioned.  Troopers will be investigating for signs of drug and alcohol impairment.  If they suspect that you are under the influence, you may be asked to exit your vehicle and perform certain roadside tasks, often referred to as field sobriety tests.  Information about the dates and locations of the planned DUI checkpoints in the Knoxville area are included below and have been taken from directly from the Tennessee Highway Patrol press release.  Information for additional DUI roadblocks across Tennessee can be downloaded by clicking here.

Should you be arrested for DUI or arrested or cited for another criminal offense or traffic violation, it is important that you consult with a Tennessee attorney as soon as possible.  Our attorneys,  Steve and Sara, will be available to speak with you and can be reached by calling 865-249-7200.

DIST. 1 KNOXVILLE — No Refusal New Year’s Eve Checkpoints

Friday, December 28:

Checkpoint               County                   Road/Highway                             Time of Day

SOBRIETY                    BLOUNT                 O. KNOX HWY @ I-140 RAMP       LATE NIGHT

 Monday, December 31:

Checkpoint             County            Road/Highway                               Time of Day

SOBRIETY *               SEVIER            GOOSE GAP @ SUGAR LOAF RD        LATE NIGHT

DL CHECKPOINT    CAMPBELL      STATE ROUTE 116 @                           LATE MORNING


SOBRIETY                  ANDERSON     SR 62 @ KNOX/ANDERSON              LATE NIGHT


SOBRIETY                  LOUDON         US 70 @ CREEKWOOD BLVD             AFTERNOON

Tuesday, January 1:

Checkpoint     County              Road/Highway                                               Time of Day

SOBRIETY*        KNOX                 STATE ROUTE 162 @ STATE ROUTE 62              LATE NIGHT


SOBRIETY*        SEVIER              STATE ROUTE 66 @ STATE ROUTE 139                LATE NIGHT

SOBRIETY*        SEVIER              US 411 @ CHEROKEE CR                                      LATE NIGHT

SOBRIETY*        BLOUNT            I-140 @ STATE ROUTE 33                                   LATE NIGHT

*No Refusal DUI Checkpoint

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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 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,, you may review additional information on our website, or you may call Steve Oberman at the Oberman and Rice Law Firm at 865-249-7200.

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