Driver’s License Reinstatement Following DUI Conviction

One consequence of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and related convictions, such as Implied Consent Violation, is the loss of the person’s Tennessee driver’s license.  Depending upon the facts of the case, the Tennessee driver’s license revocation can range from one year to more than ten years.  Once the revocation period expires, the person is not allowed to simply start driving. Rather, specific steps must be taken to have one’s driver’s license properly reinstated with the Tennessee Department of Safety.

Failure to reinstate your Tennessee driver’s license could result in your arrest if you drive while unlicensed.  In fact, a conviction for Driving on a Revoked, Suspended or Canceled Driver’s License could result in a mandatory jail sentence if your license had been revoked, suspended, or canceled as a result of a DUI conviction.  Eligibility for driver’s license reinstatement is not a defense to this crime.

To find out when your Tennessee driver’s license is eligible for reinstatement and to how to accomplish this goal, you may click here for detailed information relating to reinstating your Tennessee driving privilege. To obtain this information, you should be prepared to provide your Tennessee driver’s license/ID number.

If you have any additional questions about Tennessee driver’s license consequences of a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction, Steve Oberman and Sara Compher-Rice are available to speak with you and answer your questions.  Steve and Sara can be reached by calling (865) 249-7200.  You may also find additional information about the crime and consequences of DUI on our firm’s websites: and


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Using Bail To Get Out of Jail

In this week’s podcast, Using Bail To Get Out of Jail, Steve Oberman explains the process for getting out of jail in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) cases.

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If you have any questions about obtaining bail (also referred to as bond) in Tennessee or about the offense of Driving Under the Influence, feel free to visit the Oberman & Rice websites at and  You may also contact Steve or Sara by calling (865) 249-7200.

You can also watch a video version of this podcast on YouTube.

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Defining “Under the Influence” and “Drunk Driving”

Tennessee law prohibits a motorist from driving “under the influence” as explained in Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-401.  What most people do not understand is that driving “drunk” is actually not the legal equivalent to being “under the influence.”  Steve Oberman explains this distinction and what it means to drive “under this influence” in this week’s podcast: Defining “Under the Influence.”

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A video version of this podcast may also be viewed by clicking here.

You can also watch a video version of this podcast on YouTube.

If you have any questions about the offense of Driving Under the Influence, feel free to visit the Oberman & Rice websites at and  You may also contact Steve or Sara by calling (865) 249-7200.

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How Many People Drive Under the Influence Each Year?

The Oberman & Rice Law Firm is pleased to announce the creation of The DUI Law Podcast.  The DUI Law Podcast features former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc., and managing attorney of Oberman & Rice, Steve Oberman.  Each episode Steve will expound on a different area of DUI laws, including, but not limited to, information about the DUI arrest, the science surrounding DUI laws, and how to choose the best DUI attorney to handle your case.

We hope you enjoy the first episode, in which Steve reviews a recent study relating to how many people drive while under the influence each year.

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How Many People Drive Drunk

Click here to view a video of this podcast.

You can also watch a video version of this podcast on YouTube.

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New TN Ignition Interlock Device Laws–Part 3

Part 3: Discretionary Tennessee Ignition Interlock Device

In addition to the mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) requirements for certain DUI 1st Offense convictions as well as offenders with prior DUI convictions, Tennessee judges have the discretion to order the installation of an IID as a condition for any Tennessee DUI conviction.  Interestingly, if a judge orders the installation of an ignition interlock device at his or her own discretion, as opposed a situation where the IID is specifically required by Tennessee law, the defendant may be required to have the device installed for a longer period of time.  For instance, when mandated by Tennessee law for a DUI 1st offense conviction, as discussed in Part 1 of this series, the IID may only be ordered for the length of the Tennessee driver’s license revocation.  However, when ordered purely at the discretion of the judge, the ignition interlock device may be ordered to remain on the defendant’s vehicle for any period of time up to 1 year after the expiration of the Tennessee driver’s license revocation period.

Any Tennessee defendant who is eligible for a DUI-related restricted Tennessee driver’s license may also request an ignition interlock device.  If a defendant requests an IID, at his or her own expense, the person would be able to drive without geographic restrictions (i.e. to and from work, school, place of worship, etc.) during the driver’s license revocation period.   In this circumstance, a judge may not extend the required period of the ignition interlock device beyond the Tennessee driver’s license revocation period.  If required by Tennessee law to have an IID installed, a defendant is eligible to have the costs paid from the Interlock Assistance Fund. However, it is important to note that Tennessee law does not allow for monetary assistance for indigent defendants who are not ordered to install an IID, but opt for such installation of their own accord.

If you have any additional questions or concerns about the new Tennessee DUI laws, please feel free to contact Steve or Sara at The Oberman & Rice law firm by calling (865) 249-7200.

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New TN Ignition Interlock Device Laws — Part 2

Part 2: Mandatory Tennessee Ignition Interlock Device Requirement For Offenders With Prior DUI Convictions

A person convicted of Tennessee DUI, who also has a prior DUI conviction in the past 5 years will also be required to install an ignition interlock device.  In this instance, the ignition interlock device must be installed on the person’s vehicle during the period of license revocation and for an additional 6 months after the expiration of the revocation period.

A person convicted of a Tennessee DUI 2nd Offense will also be required to install an ignition interlock device during the second year of the 2-year suspension (the person is not eligible to drive at all during the first year).  If the person’s prior DUI conviction was within 5 years of the current offense, the person will also be required to maintain the ignition interlock device on his vehicle for a period of 6 months after the expiration of the Tennessee driver’s license revocation period.

Part 3 of the blog series examining the Tennessee Ignition Interlock Device requirements for Tennessee DUI offenders will focus on when the requirement can be ordered at the court’s discretion.  Should you have any questions about how the new Tennessee DUI laws may apply to your case, please feel free to contact Knoxville, TN DUI lawyers Steve Oberman and Sara Compher-Rice at (865) 249-7200.

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New TN Ignition Interlock Device Laws–Part 1

Over the next several weeks, Tennessee DUI Center will be highlighting information about the new laws applicable to Tennessee DUI offenses.  The first of the new Tennessee DUI laws involves the use of Ignition Interlock Devices (commonly referred to as IIDs).

Part 1: Mandatory Tennessee Ignition Interlock Device Requirement For DUI 1st Offense Conviction

As of January 1, 2011, many Tennessee DUI offenders, if convicted of driving under the influence, 1st Offense, may face a mandatory order for the installation of an IID if at the time of the offense:

  1. The person’s blood or breath alcohol concentration was .15% or greater;
  2. The person was accompanied by a person under 18 years of age;
  3. The person was involved in a traffic accident requiring notification and the accident was a proximate result of intoxication; OR
  4. The person violated the implied consent law (refused to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test to determine blood alcohol content) and the person has a conviction or juvenile delinquency adjudication for one of the following within the past 5 years:
    • Implied Consent Violation;
    • Underage Driving While Impaired (DWI);
    • Open Container; OR
    • Reckless Driving if the original charge was for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Future blog entries will address Tennessee Ignition Interlock Device requirements for Tennessee DUI offenders with prior DUI convictions and will answer many frequently asked questions relating to this new law.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about how the new Tennessee DUI laws may apply to your case, please feel free to contact Knoxville, TN DUI lawyers Steve Oberman and Sara Compher-Rice at (865) 249-7200.

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Tennessee District Attorney General – Description of Duties

The citizens of Tennessee often become upset at their District Attorney General for either prosecuting a case they don’t believe should be prosecuted or for not prosecuting a case they believe should be prosecuted.  With that in mind, here is a quote from an opinion rendered by the Tennessee Supreme Court describing the duties of the District Attorney General (then called the Solicitor-General).  I hope this enlightens the readers of this blog.

The District Attorney General

… “He is to judge between the people and the government; he is to be the safeguard of the one and the advocate for the rights of the other; he ought not to suffer the innocent to be oppressed or vexatiously harassed; any more than those who deserve prosecution to escape; he is to pursue guilt; he is to protect innocence; he is to judge the circumstances, and, according to their true complexion, to combine the public welfare and the safety of the citizens, preserving both, and not impairing either; he is to decline the use of both individual passions and individual malevolence, when he can not use them for the advantage of the public; he is to lay hold of them where public justice, in sound discretions, requires it.” …

Catherine Fout v. State of Tennessee, 4 Tenn. 98 (1816)

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In an Average Year 30 Million Americans Drive Drunk – 10 Million Drive Impaired by Illicit Drugs

On Dec. 9 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US government (SAMHSA) indicated that on average 13.2 percent of all persons 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol and 4.3 percent of this age group drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year.

This self reporting survey reported dramatic differences among age groups.  Younger drivers aged 16 to 25 had a much higher rate of drunk driving than those aged 26 or older (19.5 percent versus 11.8 percent).

Similarly, people aged 16 to 25 had a much higher rate of driving under the influence of illicit drugs than those aged 26 or older (11.4 percent versus 2.8 percent).

The good news reported in the survey is that there has been a reduction in the rate of drunk and drugged driving in the past few years.  When compared to the survey data from 2002 through 2005, the data gathered from 2006 to 2009 indicate that the average yearly rate of drunk driving has declined from 14.6 percent to 13.2 percent, while the average yearly rate of drugged driving has decreased from 4.8 percent to 4.3 percent.  This National Survey on Drug Use and Health involved responses from more than 423,000 respondents aged 16 or over.

A copy of the entire government report is accessible at:

For the latest information about the public health risks of alcohol misuse one can go to This site provides updated information about the risks, such as drunk driving, as well as new and effective prevention strategies and activities.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a Web site at that provides detailed information about the dangers of drunk and drugged driving and what can be done to help combat the problem.

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As of July 1, 2010, a DUI Conviction Costs You More

Among the new and updated DUI/DWI-related laws generated from the Tennessee 106th General Assembly (2010) is the requirement that each person convicted of a TN DUI charge be taxed a $40.00 Ignition Interlock Device (IID) fee.  The purpose of the fee is to fund the Ignition Interlock Fund, which is being created to pay for installation and maintenance of the ignition interlock device for indigent defendants in certain circumstances.  The $40.00 IID fee is the second court cost increase for Tennessee DUI convictions to be mandated by the Tennessee Legislature this past year.  See my June 20, 2010 post, Where Does the Chemical Test Fee Go?, for information on the other fee increase.

In the coming weeks Tennessee DUI Center will continue to provide information on the new and/or updated Tennessee DUI/DWI laws.  Please check back each week for a new highlighted law.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about Tennessee DUI laws or DUI/DWI-related matters, feel free to contact Steve or Sara at 865-249-7200 or visit us online at either or

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Can Your Prior DUI Conviction Be Used Against You?

If you have been arrested for DUI/DWI in Tennessee, how do you know if a prior DUI or DWI conviction may be used against you to increase your punishment?  Tennessee law establishes a “look-back” period to determine whether your prior offense will be used to enhance your Tennessee DUI sentence (i.e. to a TN DUI 2nd offense, Tennessee DUI 3rd offense, etc.).  For Tennessee DUI offenses committed on or after July 1, 2010, the way in which this “look-back” period is calculated has changed:

Tennessee DUI offenses prior to July 1, 2010: Calculate from the date of conviction on the prior offense to the date of conviction on the current TN DUI charge.

Tennessee DUI offenses on or after July 1, 2010: Calculate from the date of the offense of the prior DUI conviction to the date of the offense for the current DUI charge.

These changes can be found in Tennessee Public Chapter Number 1080, which amended Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-403(a)(3). The full text of all Tennessee Public Chapters can be found by visiting

For more information about this new Tennessee DUI law, you may contact the Oberman & Rice Law Firm, Knoxville, TN DUI lawyers, at 865-249-7200 or visit us at or

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DUI Consequences for College Students

After earning an undergraduate degree and completing coursework for a master’s degree in social work, Suzanne Glen learned a final lesson that would invalidate many of her previous ones.  After being charged with a DUI in Alabama, the University of Tennessee indefinitely suspended Suzanne in November 2009.  She continued her master’s coursework through the Spring of 2010 while appealing her punishment.  Even though she was only convicted for Reckless Driving and not DUI, Suzanne’s appeal failed, and she is now unable to receive her degree, her transcripts, or any of the $13,000 she spent on Spring courses.

However startling, Suzanne’s is not an uncommon case.   There are many thousands of college students who drink and drive.  In a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey, 44% of college students reported binge drinking at least once in the two weeks prior to being surveyed.  19% reported frequent binge drinking, and more than half of those admitted to drinking and driving in the 30 days prior to being surveyed.  Little do they know that their irresponsible social behavior, regardless of academic standing, could prohibit them from earning a degree.  In a similar NHTSA survey, an alarming number of high school students also admitted to drinking and driving, which, if caught, could prevent them from being accepted to college.

In addition to showing just how life-altering a DUI charge can be, Suzanne’s case highlights the importance of hiring an attorney who specializes in DUI Defense—something Suzanne did not do.  Attorneys that specialize in DUI Defense will be familiar with how a DUI will affect school and job applications, student statuses, various degrees, professional licenses, and other certifications.  Such attorneys will be more apt to follow the course of action best-suited to each client’s unique interests.  A list of attorneys who are certified as specialists in Tennessee may be found at


Sentencing and Dispositions of Youth DUI and Other Alcohol Offenses: A Guide for Judges and Prosecutors. NHTSA.

“UT rejects woman’s appeal of suspension, withholds degree”. The Knoxville News-Sentinel. 9-23-10.

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The Court Reporter: The Unsung Hero

The following entry was authored by guest contributor Nicky Uribe, a 3L law student at The University of Tennessee College of Law, who is working as a law clerk this summer at Oberman & Rice.

You see them in the courtroom; they quietly tap away at their keys.  They do not say much, if anything at all. Who are these people and what are they doing there?  These ladies and gentlemen are court reporters. If you have been accused of a crime, they are your heroes and you did not even realize it.

In many cases, court reporters are fundamental to protecting a defendant’s rights.  At first you may wonder why court reporters are so important.  You, the attorneys, and the judge are all present.  Everyone hears the same thing.   After all, there can only be one truth.  Sadly though, that is not so.  While it is true that all lawyers and judges are charged with abiding by the rules of ethics and the law, we are only human.  More ears present do not always lead to a more accurate story; it may lead to a contentious argument.  That is where the court reporter comes in.  They are in the thick of the proceedings and are stationed as close to the testifying witness and the judge as possible.  This prime position allows court reporters to hear each word and record the proceedings fairly and accurately.  This is part of your record.  This is where you look to appeal a decision or place the case in the right perspective for the judge.  This is a life raft without which many a defendant would be sunk.

Contrary to popular opinion, a court reporter will not always be present.  Depending on the case, your attorney may advise you to hire your own court reporter. Court reporters are generally not present to record the proceedings in misdemeanor criminal cases (crimes with a maximum punishment of less than one year), or in civil cases.  In felony cases where the minimum punishment is one year or more, the State provides a court reporter at no cost to the defendant.

At times, attorneys develop a working relationship with particular court reporters.  They trust each other and work well as a team.

So, what does a court reporter do and how do they do it?  The New York Times attempted to demystify the court reporter with a question and answer session from June 16, 2010 – June 18, 2010.  One of the most obvious questions that one may have is how do they keep up with everyone when they speak so fast?  According to a seasoned federal court reporter, the machine they use is called a stenotype.  Unlike a traditional key board, a stenotype has a limited number of keys; only main consonants and vowels.  In order to type entire words, court reporters must press multiple keys to form certain letters and spell out a word.  Furthermore, they must create their own form of shorthand for long phrases, often used during trial proceedings.  For instance, ladies and gentlemen of the jury is “LAIJS.”

Essentially, court reporters must go to school to learn an entirely different language.  They also have to learn how to operate and care for their machines on top of becoming lightning-fast typers.  All of the costs for the training and the machines come out of their own pocket. So the next time your attorney advises you that you should retain a court reporter, consider the training and hard work of these men and women. They deserve everyone’s respect and appreciation.

For more information on court reporters in Tennessee, click here.  To speak to an attorney regarding any criminal matter, feel free to contact Steven Oberman or Sara Compher-Rice.

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Vanilla Extract: Not Just For Baking Anymore?

The following entry was authored by guest contributor Nicky Uribe, a 3L law student at The University of Tennessee College of Law, who is working as a law clerk this summer at Oberman & Rice.

The sweet smell of vanilla can send many of us back to our mother’s kitchen.  Whether she was baking cookies or cake, maybe even pancakes, she probably used vanilla extract.  For many cooks, vanilla extract is a pantry constant and they would not be caught dead without a bottle.  Believe it or not, though, some people abuse vanilla extract.  In fact, cooking extracts along with other common household items may be abused by alcoholics.

WATE TV News reported on July 2, 2010 that Germantown’s Ms. Kelly Moss was arrested on charges of DUI and refusing a blood alcohol test.  The police reportedly found Ms. Moss slumped over her steering wheel. You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with vanilla extract?”  Everything.  Ms. Moss had no alcoholic beverages in her possession.  Indeed, the police did not accuse her of consuming any; she was found with diet cola cans and partially empty bottles of vanilla extract.

It could have been a perfect recipe for a vanilla cola, but Ms. Moss’s history makes it more likely than not that she was attempting to become intoxicated from the high alcohol content in vanilla extract.  On July 7, 2010, CBS reported that this was Ms. Moss’s third DUI arrest.  Vanilla extract is 35% alcohol per volume. Ms. Moss apparently mixed the extract into diet cola.  Witnesses stated that they became concerned when her vehicle jumped a curb.  That incident, along with her inability to walk, slurred speech, and partially empty extract bottles, gave the police probable cause to arrest her.  We cannot know all of the particulars in this case.  Yet one thing seems clear, anyone who resorts to abusing common household items such as extracts, cleaners, cough medicine, or mouthwash to become intoxicated needs help.

No one should abuse substances.  Even vanilla extract, in large amounts, can 1) make you sick and 2) intoxicate you.  The mere fact that a substance is not an alcoholic beverage does not make it safe to consume in large amounts.  Abusing extract and the like do not make one less of an alcoholic.  Also, those who believe that drinking extract until impaired and then driving precludes a DUI charge are misguided and misinformed.  If you, or anyone you know abuses these substances, encourage them to seek the help immediately.

For more information on substance abuse treatment programs in Tennessee, click here.  For assistance with a DUI related legal matter, please contact the Oberman and Rice Law Firm. Steven Oberman and Sara Compher-Rice are available 24 hours a day to assist you with your legal matter.

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Flashing Ads: Proposed Digital License Plates

The following entry was authored by guest contributor Nicky Uribe, a 3L law student at The University of Tennessee College of Law, who is working as a law clerk this summer at Oberman & Rice.


Imagine, you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. It’s hot. It’s been a long day. I bet you are thinking, “Man, I sure wish I could watch commercials right now.”

No? Well, if you live in California, soon you may not have a choice. The Los Angeles Times reported on June 28, 2010, that the California legislature had proposed a fix for an ever increasing budget deficit: digital license plates.  These license plates would look like a traditional plate but have the ability to flash ads across the face of the plate.

The potential problems with this technology abound. In fact, the California legislature has commissioned a study to determine the efficacy of widespread use of digital license plates. Smart Plate Corp., a manufacturer, claims that the plates could be customized to not only flash ads, but also personalized messages for your favorite sports teams, or flash emergency messages.  However, where the line would be drawn on personalized messages seems a difficult question. Also, such a program would require a statewide wireless connection. Nothing approaching a statewide system is currently in place.

When dealing with technology one must also consider hackers. How will California protect millions of drivers from the ever present and persistent efforts of our nation’s hackers? What kind of messages and images will likely pop up in place of a Bounty ad? Instead of an innocent quicker, picker-upper, will we see pornography? Perhaps hate speech?  Who knows what a trip to the grocer will entail.

Most importantly, won’t digital ads merely create one more distraction for drivers? According to the manufacturers, the answer is no. They believe that they could program the software so that the ads only play when a vehicle is stopped for at least 4 seconds. Some software will keep track of every vehicle and whether it is stopped for at least 4 seconds.  Oh, the kinks that they will have to work out. What happens if the software malfunctions and drivers become distracted? All it takes is one officer to stop you for a traffic violation. Maybe you were on your way home from dinner. You had a couple glasses of wine. You are certainly not impaired but that ad so enticed you that you ran a red light and now you are pulled over. The police officer believes that he smells the odor of alcohol on you and suspects you of DUI.  The next thing that you know, you are hand cuffed and inside a police cruiser, all because of a malfunctioning license plate.

That said, if California is able to work out the problems with these digital ads, they could be a tremendously successful source of revenue for all states, including Tennessee, which we know has its own budget deficit.  Even if this technology does not gain widespread acceptance, you may still be affected. Californians travel, just like everyone else. In fact, without widespread use, such occurrences will likely be even more novel and distracting than they are in California. Southerners, prepare yourself. We are entering a new world and it is looking more and more like the passengers on the space shuttle portrayed in the movie Wall-E every day.

If you find yourself charged with a DUI in these or other circumstances, please contact the attorneys at The Oberman and Rice Law Firm. As always, Steven Oberman and Sara Compher-Rice are available 24 hours a day to assist you with your legal matter.


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Where Does the Chemical Test Fee Go?

Most would assume that any money collected from Tennessee criminal defendants required to pay a blood alcohol or drug concentration fee would then be used for purposes related to Tennessee DUI enforcement, DUI investigation or the blood, breath, or urine testing itself.  In fact, all fees collected prior to July 1, 2010 were mandated to be used, in part, “to purchase, maintain and upgrade the equipment and supplies necessary to examine and analyze, in a timely manner, the increased number of requests for determinations of alcohol concentration, the presence of narcotic or other drugs, or for both alcohol or drugs, in submitted blood samples resulting from permitting the testing for both alcohol and drugs of drivers of motor vehicles suspected to be operating in violation of § 55-10-401.” See Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-419(c)(2).

On June 9, 2010, Governor Bredesen signed a new law which not only increases the fee collected from defendants who submit to blood, breath, or urine tests from $100.00 to $250.00, but also re-designates how these funds are to be distributed.  This new law is  is no longer specific to DUI investigations, but allows a much broader use of the funds “to purchase equipment and supplies, pay for the education, training and scientific development of employees, and for any other purpose so as to allow the bureau to operate in a more efficient and expeditious manner.” 

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DUI Convictions & Breath Tests: A Love Affair Gone Wrong?

On June 10, 2010 The Washington Post reported that nearly 400 drunk-driving convictions in Washington D.C. were based on flawed breath tests.  For those unfamiliar with breath tests, “trained” officers using specialized equipment perform breath tests by having the suspect blow into the machine that supposedly determines the blood alcohol level.  Police departments across the nation rely on these devices to prove your guilt.  However, these tests, like all chemical tests, are highly susceptible to human and mechanical error.

In this investigation, police officers were charged with the task of calibrating these devices to ensure accuracy.  However, according D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, city police improperly adjusted the machines.  The machines, as calibrated, showed a driver’s blood-alcohol content to be approximately 20% higher than it actually was.  On average, the jailed suspects spent at least 5 days in jail.

This can happen to you. Years ago, Tennessee dealt with a similar problem of flawed tests. In 1990, a police officer exposed how easily these so called “high tech” devices could be manipulated. During a trial, an attorney discovered that a Davidson County police officer demonstrated how, with a mere twist of the calibration knob, a breath test result could be adjusted from .01 % (when calibrated properly) to as high as .22 %. Based on this evidence, the judge dismissed the defendant’s case.  While great pains were taken to remedy the problem, there is still a possibility that the device you are tested on will give false readings.

In Tennessee, breath tests create a rebuttable presumption that you are intoxicated.  Essentially, the burden is on you to prove that you were not intoxicated.  Without assistance from a trained professional, this can be very difficult to do.  DUI convictions can ruin your life.  Do you drive for a living?  Do you have minor children who cannot take care of themselves?  Or is driving fundamental to your life in some other way?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should understand that a DUI conviction might prevent you from fulfilling your responsibilities.  Not only will you have to incur the costs of the conviction (court costs, fees, insurance premiums), you will also have to bear the stigma of being labeled a drunk driver.

Procedures and machines differ from state to state, police department to police department.  The number of mistakes and errors that the police can make when preparing these devices is too numerous to list.  However, an absence of human error cannot render these tests reliable.  It suffices to say that, until we can ensure the machines are properly maintained and the tests are properly administered, this love affair between the police and their breath tests poisons our justice system and calls the validity of DUI convictions into question.  If you have been stopped, cited, or arrested for any DUI related offense, contact a DUI attorney.

The attorneys at the Oberman and Rice Law Firm are available to assist you 24 hours a day. For information on how to select a Tennessee DUI attorney, click here.  For information about a Tennessee DUI charge, you may contact Steve Oberman or Sara Compher-Rice at (865) 249-7200.


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Taking a Chemical Test May Cost You $250

Tennessee law currently mandates a $100.00 fee be assessed to any person who submits to a breath, blood or urine test upon conviction of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Vehicular Assault by Intoxication, Vehicular Homicide, or Aggravated Vehicular Homicide.  As of July 1, 2010, the Tennessee Legislature has increased this fee, also known as the “blood alcohol or drug concentration fee” to $250.00.  Public Chapter No. 1020 can be reviewed by clicking here.

If a person submits to a blood, breath, or urine test and registers above .08% (the legal limit for Driving Under the Influence in Tennessee), not only could this test result help to convict the person of Driving Under the Influence or one of the more serious offenses noted above, but the submission may ultimately cost the same person an extra $250.00 in addition to mandatory fines and other court costs.

These increased out of pocket costs related to a Tennessee Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction, make it even more imperative that anyone charged with the offense of DUI in Tennessee contact a lawyer who regularly handles DUI cases and is familiar with the issues related to chemical testing.  If you have been charged with a DUI in Knoxville, Tennessee or elsewhere in the state of Tennessee, feel free to contact our office for more information by calling (865) 249-7200 or visit our website,

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Are Reductions Routine in 1st Offense DUI Cases?

Most new clients we meet have the incorrect preconceived notion that as long as they have never been in trouble before (no convictions, no traffic tickets, etc.), the State will simply agree to reduce the pending DUI 1st Offense to something such as a Reckless Driving.  In reality, a person’s prior criminal history, or lack thereof, is seldom relevant to the case unless the person is convicted and facing sentencing.

Over the past several decades, the trend in our society has been toward harsher penalties and more conservative laws for driving under the influence.  A recent story in the ABA Journal highlights one reason that prosecutors are hesitant to be lenient on the punishment for DUI offenders.  DUI prosecutors often state that they cannot reduce a DUI, even if just a first offense, because the defendant may then go out and repeat the behavior of driving while impaired, endangering the lives the community.  This exact scenario, as reported by the ABA Journal, recently played out in Maryland.  However, rather than striking and injuring a citizen at large, the defendant in question struck and injured a retired Maryland County Judge and his wife.  The same Judge had previously shown leniency to the defendant, suspending his DUI sentence (meaning he did not have to serve any time in jail).

Accounts such as these provide prosecutors, state legislators and private organizations (such as MADD) with the ammunition needed to justify the “no tolerance” trend toward DUI offenders.  Unfortunately, although each Driving Under the Influence case is quite unique and bears individual scrutiny to determine whether a reduction is appropriate, many jurisdictions are pushing for convictions in all cases under the assumption that the defendant will re-offend.

This trend only highlights the importance of selecting a qualified attorney to handle your DUI case.  Never assume that you can handle the case yourself or hire the cheapest lawyer you can find because you are assured a reduced charge due to your clean record.  Do your homework and hire the very best DUI defense attorney that you can afford.  For more information on how to select a Tennessee DUI attorney, click here.  For information about a Tennessee DUI charge, you may contact Steve Oberman or Sara Compher-Rice at (865) 249-7200.

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Have a DUI conviction? Read this before traveling to the 2010 Winter Olympics!

When a person is convicted of or pleads guilty to the offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Tennessee, the law requires that a judge advise them of the mandatory penalties set by the Tennessee legislature.  The judge must also advise the person of enhanced penalties for future DUI convictions.

The judge is not required, however, to advise a defendant of the possible restrictions a Tennessee DUI conviction could place on travel.  For instance, once convicted of a TN DUI offense, a person is deemed “criminally inadmissible” to Canada.  In fact, if border authorities learn of Tennessee DUI arrest, pending trial, or even the simple issuance of a criminal warrant, you may be denied entry.

Typically, one must follow specific “rehabilitation” procedures to be granted access to Canada following a conviction for driving under the influence.  However, a person cannot even begin the application process until a period of five (5) years has passed since the expiration of his or her sentence (rather than 5 years from the date of conviction).  In some rare instances, one may be granted a temporary residence permit, which would allow the person entry even during a period of criminal inadmissibility.

Two excellent references on this subject can be found at and

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You don’t have to be over the legal limit of .08% to be convicted of DUI

Most people erroneously believe that one can’t be convicted of DUI if one registers below .08% blood alcohol level.  Recently, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction of a man whose blood alcohol level was only .03%, well below the statutory .08% per se (legal) level.

In this case, the officer testified that the defendant swerved his vehicle three times over the yellow center lines of the road. Then the Defendant approached an intersection and turned left without stopping at the stop sign. After being stopped, the Defendant failed all field sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a person does not have to have a blood alcohol content of .08% or any drugs in his or her system in order to be found guilty of DUI.

The Court considered all of the evidence, including the Defendant’s failure to perform field sobriety tests satisfactorily and the police officer’s observation of driving infractions by the Defendant, was sufficient to uphold the conviction.

This case emphasizes the need to be certain a qualified lawyer with sufficient DUI or DWI defense experience and expertise is hired to defend a Driving Under the Influence case even if the blood alcohol level is below the per se (legal) limit of .08%.

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No Recovery for DUI Accident Injury

New Jersey has taken the collateral consequences of a drunk driving conviction to a new level.  Consider, for a moment, that you were legally stopped at a red light when you were rear-ended by a negligent driver.  Upon investigation, the officer determines that you are under the influence.  You are subsequently arrested and ultimately convicted.  Although you were injured in the accident, which was clearly not your fault, a New Jersey statute bars recovery, regardless of liability, for any loss suffered “in connection with” an accident where the claimant has been convicted of DUI. This statute, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b), bars recovery not only of economic, but also non-economic loss sustained as a result of the accident.

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Tennessee DUI Roadblocks This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for holiday parties and New Year’s celebrations.  Alcohol consumption is often an integral part of these celebrations.  As a result, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has announced a plan to increase enforcement as part of National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month.  Throughout the state of Tennessee, Troopers will be conducting more than 100 sobriety checkpoints (also known as DUI roadblocks) and driver license checkpoints from now through the New Year’s holiday.

To read more about the increased enforcement and to review a list of planned driver license and DUI roadblock dates and locations, click here.  For more information about the crime of Driving Under the Influence in Tennessee, please visit

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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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Tennessee DUI Laws on “Let’s Talk Law with Steve Oberman & Sara Compher-Rice”

Tune in to WNOX-FM 100.3 NewsTalk 100 this Sunday, August 30, 2009, when Steve and Sara will be discussing the topic of “Tennessee DUI Laws.”  You can also listen live via the web by visiting

We encourage you to call during the show with your questions about the DUI laws in Tennessee by dialing (865) 656-TALK (8255) or (800) 951-TALK (8255).  U.S. Cellular and AT&T Wireless customers can also place a free call by dialing *100.  If you prefer, feel free to post your questions and/or comments here on our blog.  We will review the blog before the show and attempt to answer your questions on the air.

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Tips for Selecting and Working with a DUI Lawyer

Unfortunately most people charged with a Tennessee DUI offense do not realize that the selection of his or her lawyer can be life-altering decision.  Many people charged with a DUI in Tennessee find themselves in the midst of the criminal justice system for the first time in their lives.  The experience is often overwhelming and terrifying.  The worst thing a person can do is hire an attorney at random to handle a driving under the influence case.  Steve Oberman and I often advise potential clients to not rely solely on the biggest yellow page ad or a billboard advertisement.  Your decision should be based upon careful research and reflection.

On the August 16th show of “Let’s Talk Law with Steve Oberman and Sara Compher-Rice,” we were fortunate to have two guests to discuss this issue and answer questions from our listeners on the topic of Selecting and Working with a Lawyer.  Attorneys Tom Scott and Mark Britton, for providing our listeners invaluable information relating to selecting and working with a lawyer.

Tom Scott is currently serving as the Chair of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR).  Tom provided us with information on the role of the Tennessee BPR and explained how the BPR fields and processes complaints of clients against lawyers.  We also learned that the general public can visit the BPR website to search for any disciplinary action taken against attorneys.  For more information on the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility and the Board can assist you, visit or call 800-486-5714.

Mark Britton is the CEO and founder of Avvo. is a resource for consumers to use when researching potential attorneys.  Unlike other lawyer rating services, Avvo provides both positive and negative feedback on attorneys.  For instance, Avvo works with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility to inform clients of any disciplinary action taken against a lawyer.

The decision of which attorney to hire is often one of the most crucial decisions a person will make in his or her life.  Tom and Mark have provided an excellent starting point for the potentially life-altering lawyer search.  Once you have completed your initial research, you should follow up by asking those you know and trust (friends, family, neighbors, other lawyers and professionals) for recommendations.  Finally, take time to meet with the potential lawyer to assess his or her skill level, attentiveness and professionalism.  You may also visit our website for examples of questions to ask during your interview.

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Is Big Brother Watching?

Do you think the government has expanded its law enforcement surveillance too far?  Many jurisdictions across the country are now employing the use of both red light cameras and speed enforcement cameras.


Tennessee recently weighed in on the use of such equipment on federal interstate highways.  Public Chapter 389, signed by Governor Bredesen on June 9, 2009, permits traffic surveillance enforcement in certain situations.  This new law amends Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-8-198 to provide certain exceptions permitting the use of surveillance cameras on federal interstate highways.  One exception states “when employees of the department or construction workers are present, surveillance cameras [may be] used to enforce or monitor traffic violations within work zones designated by the department of transportation; provided, that such cameras shall be operated only by a state entity.”


It is important to note that the new law, which allows the issuance of citations such as speeding tickets and red-light tickets,  does limit the use of traffic enforcement cameras to only work zones when department employees or construction workers are present.

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Boating Under the Influence (BUI) in Tennessee

“TWRA wants boaters to recognize the effects and consequences of alcohol use while boating. In a boat on the water, consuming one beer is equivalent to drinking three beers on land because of external stressors such as engine vibration, wave motion and glare from the sun. Operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or higher is illegal in Tennessee, the same as operating a motor vehicle.”

Based upon this statement found on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website, officers on Tennessee waterways may be more likely to arrest someone for boating under the influence (BUI) than someone who consumed the same amount of alcohol for the offense of driving a motor vehicle under the influence (DUI).

It is important for Tennessee residents and visitors alike to realize that to be subject to arrest for the offense of boating under the influence (BUI), one need only:

1. Be operating any vessel subject to registration (unlike the Tennessee DUI laws which require the vehicle to be motorized);

2. While on public waters of the state;

3. While

a. Under the influence of any intoxicant OR

b. With a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater.

Tennessee law also provides certain legal exceptions in boating under the influence (BUI) cases.  If you are arrested for BUI in Tennessee, you should promptly consult with an attorney about the facts of your case to preserve defenses and avoid the onerous penalties involved with a BUI conviction.

Because of the similarities in why persons are arrested for boating under the influence and for driving under the influence, persons charged with BUI in Tennessee should seek an attorney experienced in the intricacies of DUI defense. It is also just as important in BUI cases as it is in DUI cases that the defense investigation begins as soon as possible after the arrest in order to obtain the best possible chance of a successful outcome.

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4th of July Tennessee Sobriety Checkpoints (DUI Roadblocks)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has announced plans to conduct sobriety (DUI) checkpoints over the holiday weekend from Thursday night to Sunday night.  The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that sobriety checkpoints, often known as DUI roadblocks, are permissible under the Tennessee Constitution.  In State v. Downey, the Court held that the prevention of drunk driving in Tennessee was enough of a compelling state interest to justify the intrusive nature of DUI checkpoints.

Although Tennessee’s high court has ruled that sobriety checkpoints are permitted, law enforcement agencies are still required to follow very particular policies and procedures when establishing and conducting DUI roadblocks.  Should you have the misfortune of being stopped at a Tennessee DUI checkpoint and arrested or cited for DUI or any crime or traffic violation, you should immediately consult with a Tennessee attorney who is knowledgeable about the area of DUI defense law to determine if, in fact, the proper procedures were followed.

Please click here for a list of DUI roadblock locations across Tennessee.


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Your Right to Refuse a Breath Test or Blood Test Has Changed!

It is fairly common knowledge that Tennessee citizens have long had the statutory right to refuse an officer’s request to submit to a chemical test of the officer’s choice if the officer had “reasonable grounds” (probable cause) to believe the driver had committed the offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI or DWI) in most DUI cases.  As of July 1, 2009, however, this law has changed. Tennessee Public Chapter 324 has amended Tennessee Code Annotated Section 55-10-406 to eliminate the right of the driver to refuse a breath test, blood test, or urine test if the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the driver has committed the crime of DUI, vehicular assault or vehicular homicide and was involved in an accident resulting in the injury or death of another.


If the officer has probable cause to believe the driver has committed one of aforementioned violations AND an accident with injury or death occurs, the officer is required to test the driver to determine the alcohol or drug content in the driver’s blood.  The driver does not have the right to refuse the requested test.

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Does a “designated driver” owe a legal duty to aid or protect intoxicated passengers?

This question came before the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2008.  In this case, Downs ex rel. Downs v. Bush, 263 S.W.3d 812 (Tenn. 2008), the mother of a Ryan Downs, a passenger in the bed of his friend’s pick up truck, filed a wrongful death complaint against several of her son’s friends when Ryan, after becoming intoxicated, exited the bed of the truck, ran onto the highway, and was struck by two vehicles, causing Ryan’s death.

The Tennessee Supreme Court considered whether Mr. Downs’ friends had a special duty to aid or protect Mr. Downs because of their close relationship as best friends and roommates.  The Court held that the law did not impose any special relationship upon the friends of the deceased by virtue of this relationship.

Furthermore, the Court ruled, in the first case of this kind to be brought before the Court, that the “designated driver” did not owe Mr. Downs any special legal duty more than the customary duty to exercise reasonable care when driving the vehicle.  The Court ruled against Mrs. Downs’ argument that a designated driver was required to take affirmative action to keep intoxicated passengers inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle and to ensure that the intoxicated passenger is not abandoned in a position of peril along the journey.  Instead, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the public was better served by encouraging individuals to serve as designated drivers rather than adopting a policy that could potentially discourage the practice.

To rule otherwise, the Tennessee Supreme Court would have impliedly discouraged designated drivers and left persons who were intoxicated or otherwise under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to drive under the influence, thus committing the criminal offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in violation Of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-401.  While the facts of this case cause one to be very sympathetic toward the family of the deceased, it is Mr. Oberman’s opinion that the Tennessee Supreme Court made the correct decision.






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Want to work for Donald Trump? Not if you’ve been convicted of DUI.

This season of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice highlights one of the most overlooked consequences of a Tennessee DUI arrest and conviction–the loss of future job opportunities.  Once Donald learned of a contestant’s DUI arrest and conviction, she was promptly fired.  While Khloe Kardashian was not arrested in Tennessee, the consequences of not being hired because of a DUI conviction are universal. For more information about this and other consequences associated with a Tennessee DUI/DWI conviction, please visit


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How to Research Your Potential Tennessee DUI Lawyer

When choosing a Tennessee attorney to handle your DUI charge, you should be certain to research your potential lawyer.  Because of the serious consequences associated with a Tennessee DUI conviction, which attorney you hire is one of the most important decisions you make.  In addition to the considerations discussed in our previous post, Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo – Hiring a TN DUI Attorney, you should consult the following resources:

  1. Visit the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility website to search for the attorney.  The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility governs the licensing of Tennessee attorneys.  The website will provide information on whether the attorney is in good standing (able to practice law in Tennessee) and whether the attorney has ever been disciplined (e.g. suspended from the practice of law).
  2. Determine if the Tennessee lawyer or someone in the firm is certified as a specialist in the area of DUI Defense.  Such information can be obtained from the website of the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization.
  3. Determine if the attorney has been rated by Martindale-HubbellTM and if his rating (or that of the law firm) is an “AV.”  The “AV” rating represents an attorney who has legal abilities that are “very high to preeminent” (A) and whose ethical standards rate “very high” (V).
  4. Consult for additional information on the lawyer. Avvo provides a rating system for attorneys and was designed to assist consumers in selecting a lawyer. The benefit of Avvo is that you can review endorsements of the potential attorney from his or her peers, as well as read reviews from actual prior clients of the attorney.
  5. Finally, you should visit the attorney’s website. Review the site for the attorney’s biography and resume, as well as information pertaining to Tennessee DUI law.
  6. Don’t overlook contacting your friends, family, police officers and court personnel known to you or your friends, your employer, and other attorneys who specialize in other areas of law to obtain a short list of lawyers with excellent reputations.

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Have a Happy and Safe St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is often associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages.  If you are celebrating this holiday in such a manner, you should be careful to recognize that your alcohol consumption may impair your ability to drive.  You may not realize that your own ability to know if you are impaired or under the influence may be affected by alcohol.  The safe way to celebrate is to be certain you have a designated driver who is not drinking alcohol or taking any medications or drugs.  If you even think you may be impaired, you should call a cab or get a ride with a friend.

Even if you conclude that you are not too impaired to get behind the wheel, keep in mind that a law enforcement officer could reach a different conclusion.  Should you be stopped and suspected of driving under the influence, you may find yourself with several questions relating to Tennessee DUI laws, such as:

We would encourage you to visit our website at for the detailed answers to these and many other frequently asked questions relating to a DUI traffic stop.

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How Important Is Your Tennessee DUI Case?

A successful result to your DUI charge requires a high level of commitment on the part of both you and your lawyer.  Before hiring a DUI lawyer, you should take a moment to seriously consider some important questions.

How important is your Tennessee DUI Case to you? Are you prepared to:

  • Spend 1 ½ to 2 hours during the initial meeting with your lawyer?
  • Communicate and meet with your lawyer frequently and assist him or her in the preparation of your case?
  • Assist your lawyer in the investigation of your case by meeting with an investigator; obtaining relevant medical records; answering a detailed questionnaire?
  • Meet with your attorney at his or her officer early on the morning of each court appearance so that you may know what to expect and be prepared for your court appearance?

How important is your Tennessee DUI Case to your potential lawyer? Is he or she prepared, at a minimum, to:

If you can answer “yes” to all of your questions, be certain the Tennessee DUI lawyer you hire can answer affirmatively to the lawyer questions posed above.  Only then can you be assured that you have the best chance of obtaining a successful result.

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What happens at the arraignment for my Tennessee DUI charge?


In Tennessee, an arraignment, often referred to as an “initial appearance,” is conducted by a magistrate or judge. The underlying purpose of this appearance is for the magistrate or judge to:

1.    Inform you of the offense(s) with which you have been charged;

2.    Inform you of your right to a lawyer in every stage of the proceedings;   and

3.    To schedule your next court appearance on a mutually convenient date for you, the involved lawyers, and the witnesses. An arraignment generally takes place in the General Sessions Court before the preliminary examination (often referred to as a “preliminary hearing”) or trial; or before a formal motion hearing in your case if the case is pending in a court of record such as Criminal Court or Circuit Court.

Because your lawyer must be available at the forthcoming court appearance which is scheduled at the arraignment, it is very important to hire a Tennessee DUI lawyer to appear with you at this initial appearance.



Can My Tennessee DUI Conviction be Erased from My Record?

A typical misconception in our society is that criminal convictions, including Tennessee DUI convictions, can be erased from a criminal record.  Tennessee law allows for a charge to be expunged, or erased, from one’s record only if the charge has been dismissed.  The passage of time alone, even for years, will not be sufficient to allow for expungement under Tennessee law.  This is why it is so important to obtain the best possible representation as soon as possible after a DUI, traffic or other criminal charge has been brought against you.  Once convicted, the record of that conviction remains on your criminal history forever – possibly causing the loss of job opportunities, and affecting one’s ability and or the rates of life and health insurance.

Once a charge is dismissed (whether by agreement, acquittal a “no true bill” or executive clemency), specific procedures must be followed to request expunction of public records relating to the arrest.  To ensure that the proper procedures are followed, one should retain a lawyer to assist with the process.  The process, however, can take up to 12 weeks due to the necessity of obtaining the necessary approval of the prosecution, the judge, and the various law enforcement agencies involved.



A Flood of Mail Following Tennessee DUI Arrest

A common complaint heard from clients is that after their DUI arrest  in Knoxville, TN, they receive a barrage of solicitation mail from Knoxville attorneys.  Most of our clients are upset by this solicitation and feel their privacy has been violated. 

A DUI arrest itself is stressful and embarrassing enough without the added strain of having mention of the arrest publicized to others in your household.  In fact, many people with Tennessee DUI arrests wish to protect their loved ones from the anxiety and shame associated with a DUI arrest.  Such a task is difficult to accomplish when a parent, spouse or loved one first learns of the arrest through attorney letters discussing the incident.

Many ask — is this legal?  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  The Tennessee Rule of Professional Conduct (ethical rules) do not prohibit an attorney from sending correspondence to individuals with pending criminal cases, though certain restrictions are placed on such communication.  Unfortunately, the records relating to your DUI arrest are public record, so there is no way to prevent receipt of these letters.

Should you decide to hire a DUI lawyer in Knoxville, Tennessee based upon a solicitation you received from the lawyer in the mail, be careful not to rely solely upon the information contained in this communication when making your choice.  Click here to see our post discussing the factors you should consider when choosing a Tennessee DUI attorney.

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Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo — Hiring a TN DUI Attorney

Hiring a Knoxville, TN DUI Attorney (or a Tennessee DUI lawyer in the jurisdiction in which you were arrested) is one of the most important decisions you will make and should not be taken lightly.  Our office receives several calls a month from DUI defendants who previously hired other lawyers and are unhappy with their representation.  Some now want their conviction overturned, while others wish to fire their current Tennessee DUI lawyer for various reasons.  Keep in mind that it is very difficult to overturn a conviction.  Furthermore, because our firm finds greater success when our investigation and analysis of the case begins within the first week after arrest, we are reluctant to take a case after another lawyer has been retained.

When choosing a Tennessee attorney to handle your DUI case, you should consider many factors including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Is the majority of the lawyer’s practice devoted to defending DUI cases?  If so, for how long has the attorney’s practice focused on DUI defense?
  2. Did he or she graduate from an ABA accredited law school?
  3. Is the attorney in good standing with the State Bar or have any complaints been filed against him?
  4. Is the lawyer certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD and the Tennessee Commission on CLE & Specialization?
  5. What is the attorney’s Martindale-Hubbell™ rating?  Is it “AV”(very high to preeminent)?
  6. Does the lawyer have a “superb” Avvo rating?
  7. Has the lawyer frequently lectured to his or her peers on topics relating to DUI Defense?
  8. Has the attorney published any books or articles on DUI defense?

You should feel comfortable with the DUI attorney you choose and have confidence in his or her ability to provide you with a zealous defense to your case.  We encourage you to personally interview a lawyer before making your decision and to hire the very best lawyer available.  You typically only get one chance to present a defense to your Tennessee DUI case.  A DUI charge may place your freedom, your job, your reputation and your future in jeopardy. Accordingly, the decision of which DUI lawyer you hire is extremely important.


When should I hire a Tennessee DUI attorney?

“How soon after my arrest should I hire a Tennessee DUI attorney?” This is a common question following an arrest for the offense of Driving Under the Influence.  The answer is simple–you should consult with a DUI lawyer as soon as possible after your DUI arrest.

“The arraignment for my DUI charge is a month away.  Why do I need to hire a Tennessee DUI lawyer before my arraignment?” If you wait to hire a DUI lawyer, you take the risk of losing evidence that may be critical to the defense of your Tennessee DUI case.  To properly preserve the defenses in your case, a Tennessee DUI lawyer must conduct a thorough interview of you as soon as possible after your arrest.  Additionally, one main purpose of an arraignment in Tennessee is to set a new court date for a preliminary hearing of your case in General Sessions Court.  Accordingly, the presence of your attorney at the arraignment is important to ensure that your attorney is available for your General Sessions court date.


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