Archive for November, 2009

Tennessee Licensees Should Beware of Out of State Convictions

Anytime a Tennessee resident is charged with a crime in another state, it is wise to consult with a Tennessee lawyer to determine any Tennessee consequences that may be experienced as a result of an out of state conviction. This is especially true when charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI, also often referred to in other states as a DWI, OUI, OWI, etc.).

When facing a conviction out of state, your lawyer and even the judge pronouncing judgment are required to inform you of certain consequences of the conviction.  However, they are generally not required and are unlikely to inform you of any action the state of Tennessee may take against you as a result of a conviction.  Accordingly, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Tennessee DUI lawyer who can properly advise you.  You should contact a Tennessee DUI attorney as soon as you can.  Oftentimes, waiting to contact a DUI attorney in Tennessee until after you have been convicted is too late.


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DUI Charge Reduced to Reckless Driving

We are often asked by clients charged with the offense of Driving Under the Influence of an Intoxicant (DUI, DWI, OWI) about cases where others have had a DUI offense amended to the offense of Reckless Driving by plea agreement.  A plea agreement in theory means that the defendant pleads guilty or complies with some other requirements such as payment of a fine or court costs, performance of volunteer community work, etc., in return for an agreed upon disposition.

Most plea agreements are compromise dispositions to avoid the uncertainty and expense of a hearing and/or trial.  Any plea agreement must be approved by the presiding judge to be certain the plea agreement is justified by the facts as applied to the law.  If not, the judge may reject the plea agreement.  Some of the factors reviewed by a prosecutor (in no particular order) include the:

  • Facts of the case surrounding the arrest;
  • Nature of the offense involved;
  • Anticipated credibility of the prosecution witness(es);
  • Anticipated credibility of the defense witness(es); and
  • Skill level of the defense attorney.

Accordingly, where the facts justify an amendment from the offense of DUI to the offense of Reckless Driving, a plea agreement is reached between the parties to conclude the case in that fashion.  Agreements may range from a set punishment on a plea by the defendant to the offense charged, to the prosecution dropping the case entirely.

Readers of this blog should understand that the only reason cases are amended is when the prosecution believes it has a reasonable chance of losing the case.  Obviously, the more the prosecution believes it will lose the case, the better the plea agreement that will be offered to the defendant.  The prosecution does not want to waste time or effort attempting to convict somebody when the chances of doing so are minimal.  Plea agreements are not made on the basis of other factors such as relationships or friendships between the officers, lawyers or judges. Accordingly, a defendant should be wary of hiring a DUI attorney who makes such promises.

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Health Care Professionals and Traffic Arrests

When a doctor or other health care professional is arrested for a traffic violation, she may need two attorneys.  One attorney will defend the traffic violation.  But health care professionals who are actually arrested may need a second attorney to advise them on whether or not to report the arrest, and to what agency the arrest should be reported.   Doctors and certain other health professionals are required to report certain matters to the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners (the Board).

If you are a physician, before you contact the Board of Medical Examiners, you should first contact a knowledgeable, experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney who can advise you if it is necessary to retain an attorney who has substantial experience in representing doctors before the Board.  Doctors should not contact the Board prior to talking with a qualified attorney, as the Board may later become adversarial.

The Board requires doctors to report any conviction to their physician profile, which is accessible to the public.  However, whether or not physicians and other health care professionals are required to report arrests to the Board is less clear.  One thing is certain:  when health care providers renew their licenses, they must be truthful when answering questions on the renewal form.  If you are a physician, you should be aware that when it comes to Tennessee traffic violations and criminal offenses such as Driving Under the Influence of an intoxicant (DUI, DWI, or OWI) or even Reckless Driving, there are certain rules with which you must comply with in order to maintain your professional license.  If you are arrested for a traffic violation of any kind, consult with a Tennessee criminal defense attorney familiar with the requirements of the licensing Board.


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Exercise your Right to Remain Silent

Yesterday we addressed one category of DUI anomalies–driving unusual vehicles under the influence–but today we address a different type of anomaly, that of the self-reported DUI offense.  According to an article from AOL yesterday, a Wisconsin woman reported herself to the authorities for driving under the influence.

Her motivation for doing so is not entirely clear, whether it was a moralistic admission of guilt, unusual behavior provoked by intoxication, or a combination of both.

Reporting one’s own DUI is a surefire way of being charged with the offense and therefore of dealing with it through the court system. Sometimes it is best to pull over in a safe area, take the key out of the ignition and place it outside the vehicle, then call a friend or family member to come get you and/or the car.  Naturally, however, the most responsible option is to avoid driving under the influence altogether.

For more information about the crime of DUI in Tennessee and its consequences, feel free to contact The Oberman Law Firm at (865) 249-7200.

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Can You Get a Tennessee DUI on a Motorized La-Z-Boy?

Recent headlines have read:

“DWI in a La-Z-Boy”

“Man Charged with Drunk Driving on a Bar Stool”

“Man Arrested For Driving Lawnmower While Drunk”

These may seem like humorous headlines out of Minnesota, Ohio, and Florida, but these cases are no laughing matter.  The chair, bar stool and lawnmower in the above-referenced stories all fall within the legal definition of a motor driven vehicle under Tennessee law. Tennessee DUI laws, in relevant part, prohibit a person from driving or being in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle while under the influence. See Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-401.

Although the Tennessee legislature has not clearly defined “automobile” or “motor driven vehicle,” Tennessee courts have held that the term “automobile” refers to any “self propelled” vehicle.  See State v. Freels, 190 S.W. 454 (Tenn. 1916). Accordingly, any motorized form of transportation, including a car, a lawnmower, a scooter, or even a motorized cooler would fall within the Tennessee DUI statute.

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