Posts Tagged Tennessee DUI News

When the State’s Expert Witness Has a Financial Interest in DUI Convictions

On February 6, 2018, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-413(f), which establishes a BADT fee, is unconstitutional as a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and article I, section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution.

What is a BADT fee?

The Tennessee DUI law in question provides that,

In additional to all other fines, fees, costs, and punishments now prescribed by law, . . . a blood alcohol or drug concentration test (BADT) fee in the amount of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) shall be assessed upon a conviction for driving under the influence of an intoxicant under § 55-10-401, vehicular assault under § 39-13-106, aggravated vehicular assault under § 39-13-115, vehicular homicide under § 39-13-213(a)(2), or aggravated vehicular homicide under § 39-13-218, for each offender who has taken a breath alcohol test on an evidential breath testing unit provided, maintained, and administered by a law enforcement agency for the purpose of determining the breath alcohol content or has submitted to a chemical test to determine the alcohol or drug content of the blood or urine. T.C.A. § 55-10-413(f)(2017).[1]

The statute further indicates that the fee shall be collected by the court clerk and deposited in the TBI toxicology unit intoxication testing fund and may be used by the TBI “to employ personnel, purchase equipment and supplies, pay for the education, training and scientific development of employees, or for any other purpose so as to allow the bureau to operate in a more efficient and expeditious manner. T.C.A. § 55-10-413(f)(2) and (3)(2017).

As noted by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, this blood alcohol or drug concentration test (BADT) fee provides the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) with a direct financial interest in securing DUI-related convictions because this fee is not collected if the defendant’s charges are dismissed, reduced, or if the defendant is acquitted.

Due Process Requires Fairness and Impartiality

“When discussing the importance of due process protections, this court has reiterated that ‘[w]e cannot allow public confidence in the complete fairness and impartiality of our tribunals to be eroded and nothing which casts any doubt on the fairness of the proceedings should be tolerated.’” State v. Decosimo, No. E2017-00696-CCA-R3-CD, at *24 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 6, 2018)(citations omitted).

Although they are employed by the state, TBI forensic scientists are expected to remain neutral and unbiased to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system. The BADT fee, however, provides these forensic scientists with a pecuniary interest because they may benefit from the collected fee (continued employment, salaries, equipment, and training). The court also noted that although a TBI analyst could lost his job if test results are falsified, the analysts would “most certainly lose their jobs if funding for their positions disappears, a result of which these forensic scientist are no doubt well aware.” Such a fee system calls into question the TBI forensic test results and, therefore, violated due process. State v. Decosimo, No. E2017-00696-CCA-R3-CD, at *27 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 6, 2018)(citations omitted).

Impact of the Unconstitutionality of the BADT Fee

Attorneys across the state of Tennessee are taking a closer look at all DUI cases involving a chemical test sample. Depending on the facts of the case, and the jurisdiction, DUI defendants could benefit from the suppression of the blood or breath test results from evidence. If the evidence of impairment is limited to the chemical test result, attorneys may even find success in arguing motions to dismiss the criminal case against the defendant.

The Tennessee Attorney General’s office has filed an application to the Tennessee Supreme Court for permission to appeal the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeal’s decision. This Rule 11 application highlights the need for an urgent, “expeditious review” given the fact that the Decosimo ruling impacts thousands of past convictions as well as current and future DUI-related prosecutions. Although it is likely that the Tennessee Supreme Court will agree to hear the appeal, it remains to be seen whether they will ultimately uphold the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals’ ruling that the BADT fee is unconstitutional, or if the court will reverse the decision and find the fee constitutionally permissible.

If you would like further information about Tennessee DUI laws, or your case, you may contact the Oberman and Rice Law Firm at (865) 249-7200.

[1] At the time of the defendant’s arrest in State v. Decosimo, the relevant statute number was T.C.A. § 55-10-419 (2012). Since that time, this code section was transferred to the current location of § 55-10-413 and minor changes have been made by the Tennessee legislature.

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Tennessee Legislature Addresses “Self Driving” Cars

If you have watched the news lately, you have probably heard of the automobile giant called Tesla. Tesla is famous for its work toward developing automated cars that operate without the need for a human driver. As one could imagine, vehicles driven without a person in total control behind the wheel could be potentially dangerous—there is always a risk of some sort of malfunction with the automated system or the driver being unresponsive to the warning messages from the automated system. One such example of this issue has already arisen in Ohio. In fact, even Tesla itself released a video warning of the potential dangers of the self-driven vehicles. States have started to take notice of these self-driving vehicles and some States have even started passing laws aimed at these types of automobiles.

For example, a new law that took affect in Tennessee on July 6, 2017, sets out requirements for operating an “Automated Driving System” or “ADS”. The “Automated Vehicles Act” as created by the Tennessee Legislature in Public Chapter No. 474 sets forth certain requirements in order for such ADS enabled vehicles to lawfully operate on Tennessee roads. This statute aims to lay out restrictions on ADS vehicles as well as determine liabilities for the ADS operated vehicles.

Interestingly, if the requirements for an ADS set forth by the statute are not followed, it is a Class A Misdemeanor for a person to knowingly operate the vehicle without a human driver in the driver’s seat, punishable up to 11 month and 29 days in jail. As more options become available for ADS vehicles, those who are interested in utilizing the technology must be vigilant to ensure their vehicles comply with the statutory requirements.

Anyone charged with a traffic offense or arrested for DUI, or another related charge, should immediately contact a Tennessee DUI lawyer familiar with Tennessee DUI laws.  For more information about the crime of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or about traffic offenses, SteveSara, or AZ are available 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. The DUI Defense attorneys at Oberman & Rice are available to speak with you 24/7.

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“No Refusal” Sobriety Checkpoints on New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Eve, as 2016 draws to a close, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers will be out in force with multiple sobriety checkpoints throughout the state.

In East Tennessee, “No Refusal” Sobriety Checkpoints are planned in Knox, Loudon, Roane, Campbell, and Sevier County. For the exact locations and a full list of all planned checkpoints throughout the state, click here.

The term “No Refusal” relates to the use of chemical tests (blood, breath, or urine) to measure the concentration of alcohol or drugs in a person’s system. Usually, a person who is arrested for DUI has the right to refuse to consent to a chemical test, although there are exceptions to the right to refuse and there are consequences to refusing. If an arrestee refuses to consent, a law enforcement officer has the option of obtaining a search warrant that requires the arrestee to submit to a chemical test.

During “No Refusal” enforcement periods, like this holiday weekend, the Tennessee Highway Patrol typically has a Tennessee judge (or judges) on call.  If a person is arrested for DUI and refuses to submit to a chemical test, and if the judge determines that the requisite legal grounds exist, the judge will issue a search warrant. This search warrant allows the officer to obtain a chemical test (most often a blood sample), even over the objection or refusal of the motorist placed under arrest.

Anyone arrested for DUI, or another related charge, should immediately contact a Tennessee DUI lawyer familiar with Tennessee DUI laws.  For more information about the crime of driving under the influence (DUI) or about your legal rights with respect to a Tennessee Highway Patrol checkpoint, SteveSara, or AZ are available 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. Even during this busy holiday season, the DUI Defense attorneys at Oberman & Rice are available to speak with you 24/7.

About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.  Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 8th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen).  Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions.  He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.

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Increased Jail Time for Some DUI Offenders in Tennessee

Beginning in July 2016, drunk drivers who have prior DUI convictions will face more severe penalties.[1] The Tennessee General Assembly has enacted a new law that amends Tennessee Code Annotated §55-10-402 and enhances the way Tennessee punishes offenders with multiple DUI convictions. These changes will apply only to those who commit an offense on or after July 1, 2016.

Previously, a conviction for a 4th offense or higher DUI was a Class E Felony. A Class E Felony carries a punishment of 1-6 years.[2] Starting on July 1, while a 4th or 5th offense conviction for DUI will remain a Class E Felony, a person who commits a 6th or subsequent offense will be sentenced as a Class C Felon. A Class C Felony is punishable by 3-15 years in the penitentiary.[3]

Although the mandatory minimum jail sentence for DUI offenders who have six or more convictions will not change, the maximum sentence increases significantly. People who are convicted of a 4th or subsequent offense must serve a mandatory minimum of 150 days in jail. However, based on statistics from 2015 in Tennessee, Class E Felons serve an average of 1.56 years in jail, while Class C Felons serve an average of 4.13 years in jail.[4] This change to the law should significantly increase the amount of incarceration for those who have six or more convictions for DUI.

About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.  Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 7th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen).  Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions.  He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.

The author would like to thank his associate attorney, Anna Rickels, for her research and contributions to this article.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.tndui.com

[1] http://share.tn.gov/sos/acts/109/pub/pc0876.pdf

[2] Tennessee Code Annotated §40-35-111(b)(5)

[3] Tennessee Code Annotated §40-35-111(b)(3)

[4] Sentencing Practices in Tennessee (April 2015) http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/docs/criminal_sentencing_stats_cy2014_draft_v2.pdf

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Tennessee Labor Day Traffic Enforcement

This Labor Day weekend, the Tennessee Highway Patrol plans to implement several checkpoints across the East Tennessee area. These checkpoints will include seat belt checkpoints, driver’s license checkpoints, and DUI checkpoints. A full listing of the types and locations of roadblocks can be found here. It is important to keep in mind that even if the checkpoint is for a seat belt or no driver’s license, the law enforcement agent will be looking for any sign of an impaired driver.

If the law enforcement agent suspects a driver is impaired, or Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the law enforcement agent may ask the driver to exit the vehicle and perform several tests known as “field sobriety tests.” Furthermore, the law enforcement agent may request a chemical test (breath or blood.) Any driver should be aware of their rights and possible consequences of refusing these requested tests.

Anyone arrested for DUI, or another related charge, should immediately contact a Tennessee DUI Lawyer familiar with Tennessee DUI laws.  For more information about the crime of driving under the influence (DUI) or about your legal rights with respect to a Tennessee Highway Patrol checkpoint, Steve, Sara, or AZ are available 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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Cinco de Mayo DUI and Traffic Enforcement

The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) has increased traffic safety enforcement patrols, including driving under the influence (DUI) enforcement, for the Cinco de Mayo holiday period.  The increased Tennessee DUI and traffic enforcement will continue through midnight on May 6, 2015.

In addition to this saturated DUI enforcement, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has also scheduled several roadside checkpoints in East Tennessee this week.

  • A Driver’s License Checkpoint will be conducted on 5/5/2015 in Union County, State Route 33 at 61E.
  • A Sobriety Checkpoint will take place on 5/8/15 in Knox County, State Route 33 at Loyston Road.
  • A Driver’s License Checkpoint will be held in Roane County on 5/8/15, to be located on US 27 at Industrial Park Road.

A full list of Tennessee Highway Patrol sponsored roadside checkpoints can be found by clicking here.

If you  find yourself in the situation of being accused of a DUI or other traffic offense, you should immediately contact a Tennessee DUI attorney familiar with Tennessee DUI and traffic laws.  For more information about the crime of DUI or about your legal rights with respect to an allegation of driving under the influence of an intoxicant, the lawyers at Oberman & Rice are available 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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Tennessee Highway Patrol 4th of July Checkpoints

This 4th of July weekend, the Tennessee Highway Patrol plans to implement several checkpoints across East Tennessee, including seat belt checkpoints, driver’s license checkpoints, and DUI checkpoints.  A list of the types and locations of the roadblocks can be found here.  Be aware that even at seat belt and driver’s license checkpoints, an officer may still be looking for impaired drivers.

If an officer suspects a motorist of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the officer might ask the motorist to perform a series of field sobriety tests. The officer may also request a chemical test, such as a breath or blood test. Drivers should be aware of their rights and the potential consequences of refusing these tests.

Anyone arrested for DUI, or another related charge, should immediately contact a Tennessee DUI Lawyer familiar with Tennessee DUI laws.  For more information about the crime of driving under the influence (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 www.tndui.com for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee.

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Upcoming East Tennessee THP Checkpoints

The Tennessee Highway Patrol plans to implement several checkpoints across East Tennessee in the next few weeks. Tennessee Highway Patrol regulations allow for several types of checkpoints.  In addition to the commonly known Sobriety Checkpoints or DUI Roadblocks, Troopers may also establish roadblocks relating to Seatbelt and Driver’s License laws.  Be aware that even at seatbelt and driver’s license checkpoints, an officer may still be looking for impaired drivers.

If an officer suspects a driver of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the officer might ask the driver to perform a series of field sobriety tests. The officer may also request a chemical test, such as a breath or blood test. Motorists should be aware of their rights and the potential consequences of refusing these tests.

Anyone arrested for DUI, 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 www.tndui.com for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee.

Date County Location Type
3/12/14 Knox SR 33 @ Loyston Road Seatbelt Checkpoint
3/14/14 Union SR 33 @ SR 61 Sobriety Checkpoint
3/14/14 Roane Pine Ridge Road Near RR Tracks Driver’s License Checkpoint
3/14/14 Blount SR 336 @ Blockhouse Road Driver’s License Checkpoint
3/15/14 Anderson Sulphur Springs @ Laurel Road Driver’s License Checkpoint
3/16/14 Anderson Red Hill @ Park Lane Driver’s License Checkpoint
3/17/14 Blount SR 333 @ George Creek Boat Ramp Sobriety Checkpoint
3/19/14 Loudon I-75 North TH 76 MM Off Ramp Seatbelt Checkpoint
3/19/14 Monroe SR 322 @ I-75 S/B Exit Ramp Seatbelt Checkpoint
3/20/14 Loudon I-75 South 76 MM Off Ramp Seatbelt Checkpoint
3/20/14 Monroe SR 68 @ I-75 S/B Exit Ramp Seatbelt Checkpoint
3/21/14 Roane Highway 58 @ New Bridge Seatbelt Checkpoint
3/21/14 Campbell US 25 W @ Dog Creek Road Seatbelt Checkpoint
3/24/14 Monroe SR 369 @ Ballplay Road DL
3/26/14 Union Loyston Road @ Raccoon Valley Road Seatbelt
3/26/14 Sevier New Era Road @ South New Era Road DL
4/04/14 Knox West Emory Road @ Carpenter Road Seatbelt
4/25/14 Knox West Emory Road @ Gill Road Sobriety

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Knoxville Area DUI Checkpoints Begin Thursday Night

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has issued a media release dated July 1, 2013 that details plans for an impaired driving enforcement campaign for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.  The Tennessee Highway Patrol plans to implement several checkpoints for the duration of the holiday weekend, which will include the standard sobriety checkpoints (DUI Roadblocks) and driver’s license checkpoints, as well as the more aggressive “no refusal” sobriety checkpoints.

At these checkpoint locations, every driver who passes through must be stopped and questioned by Troopers.  During the stop, if the Troopers notice signs of drug and/or alcohol impairment  you may be asked to exit your vehicle to perform certain roadside tasks (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 directly from the Tennessee Highway Patrol press release.  Information for additional DUI roadblocks across Tennessee can be downloaded here.

 

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 www.tndui.com for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee.

 

DIST. 1 KNOXVILLE—Fourth of July Sobriety Checkpoints

* Indicates a No Refusal Sobriety Checkpoint; DL indicates a Driver’s License Checkpoint

THURSDAY, JULY 4

Checkpoint County Road/Highway Time of Day
DL CHECKPOINT Loudon EAST TELLICO PKWY NORTH OF 411 Afternoon
SOBRIETY* Knox CONCORD @ STATE ROUTE 332 Late Night
SOBRIETY* Knox STATE ROUTE 62 EAST @ STATE ROUTE 162 Late Night

FRIDAY, JULY 5:

Checkpoint County Road/Highway Time of Day
DL CHECKPOINT Loudon FOSTER RD @ BROWDER HILL & STEVENS RD Afternoon
SOBRIETY* Knox STATE ROUTE 131 @ CARPENTER RD Night
SOBRIETY* Knox MAYNARDVILLE RD @ FT. SUMTER RD Night
SOBRIETY Roane HWY 382 @ CHURCH OF LATTER DAY SAINTS Night
SOBRIETY Sevier US 411 @ STATE ROUTE 139 DOUGLAS DAM RD Night
SOBRIETY Anderson STATE ROUTE 61 @ VICTORY BAPTIST CHURCH Night

SATURDAY, JULY 6:

Checkpoint County Road/Highway Time of Day
DL CHECKPOINT Morgan STATE ROUTE 62 @ PETIT LANE Morning
DL CHECKPOINT Campbell SR 63 @ CAMPBELL/CLAIBORNE CO LINE Night
SOBRIETY Blount OLD KNOXVILLE HWY @ I-140 RAMP Night
SOBRIETY* Sevier SR 66 @ SR 139 DOUGLAS DAM RD Late Night

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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 www.tndui.com for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee.

 

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