Archive for April, 2013

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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All lawyers were not created equal — Hiring a Tennessee DUI Lawyer

Choosing the right Tennessee DUI lawyer is a critical decision that must be taken seriously.  A Driving Under the Influence charge is often the first interaction many people have with the criminal justice system, which naturally leads to stress and uncertainty about the criminal process and possible repercussions.  Many people often receive a flood of mail following a DUI arrest from attorneys, but it makes sense to carefully consider all options.

If you hire a lawyer and become dissatisfied with your choice, while your case is pending or even after a DUI conviction, it may be difficult to retain a different DUI attorney.  For instance, because it is so important to begin investigating a DUI quickly, our office is often reluctant to to take a case after another lawyer has been retained and precious time to investigate has been lost.   Therefore, the first decision should be made after considering the following:

  1. What is the focus of the attorney’s practice?  Are they, and for how long have they been primarily devoted to DUI defense?
  2. Has the lawyer had any complaints filed against him or her?
  3. What books and articles has the attorney published?
  4. Did the DUI attorney graduate from an ABA accredited law school?
  5. Has the Tennessee Commission on CLE & Specialization and the National College for DUI Defense certified the attorney as a DUI Defense Specialist?
  6. What reviews has the attorney received from lawyer review agencies like Avvo?
  7. Has the lawyer achieved Martindale-Hubbell’s™ prestigious “AV” (very high to preeminent) rating?
  8. When and how often has the attorney lectured to his or her peers about DUI Defense?

We encourage prospective clients to devote the appropriate time, usually 2 hours, to properly investigate and speak with an attorney about their case.  In our office, Steve and Sara are available every day of the year to discuss pending DUI charges.  Please contact us at 865-249-7200 with any questions.


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Impact of Out of State Convictions in Tennessee

The internet and electronic record keeping has led to the end of a time when what “happened in Vegas, stayed in Vegas.”  Similarly, criminal convictions from a distant state may no longer be ignored after a person moves away from that state.  As law enforcement, court clerk’s offices, and agencies responsible for drivers licenses continue to store and share information electronically, a person’s criminal history is increasingly likely to follow him or her across state lines.

For example, a prior DUI conviction from another state may significantly increase potential penalties and the outcome of a Tennessee DUI case, just as would a prior Tennessee DUI conviction.  State and federal agencies are increasingly accurate and reliable in their effort to report crimes to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).  By accessing the NCIC, any state or federal prosecutor may quickly review an individual’s entire criminal history, including charges that have been dismissed.

Prior charges and convictions may negatively impact pending DUI litigation.  As a result, it is imperative that anyone facing criminal charges fully disclose these charges to their Tennessee Defense Attorney, even if the prior charges have been dismissed and expunged.

Please contact our office to find out more about convictions in other states and how to address them as part of a DUI defense strategy.  You may contact our Tennessee DUI defense lawyers, Steve and Sara by calling (865) 249-7200.

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