DUI in Tennessee, like most places, is a heavily legislated issue. The laws are constantly changing, punishment is severe, they are expensive, and can have serious implications on your family life and career. It is also one of the few crimes which “non-criminals” commit, meaning it does not require any criminal, or bad, intent. Many professionals, including lawyers, doctors, accountants, and business executives, have faced the ramifications of a DUI conviction. Facing jail time, the loss of your drivers license, being treated like a criminal, and the social suggestions that are carried with a DUI conviction can be difficult. It is critical that you have an experienced DUI defense lawyer examine all aspects of your case and obtain the best possible results for you.
Defending a DUI in TN – Common Issues to Examine
Was the stop by law enforcement, a valid stop?
Police must have probable cause in order to stop your vehicle. Speeding and minor traffic offenses are all examples of probable cause to make a stop. Swerving, which is more subjective to the officer, is another common reason to make a stop. Determining whether the stated reason for the stop was valid is one of the first issues that is examined.
Whether there was probable cause to believe that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Once a stop has been initiated, there must be sufficient probable cause in order to detain an individual to investigate whether they are driving under the influence. Officers frequently use certain phrases in their reports to justify an investigation. Some of those phrases are: the smell or odor of alcoholic beverage, slurred speech, and watery, or glassy eyes. It is not uncommon to see a DUI report where the officer claims to have smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage, and it is later determined the person had not consumed alcohol at all. That type of mistake will cause the officers remaining conclusions to become questionable.
Field Sobriety Test Results/Conclusions
In order to properly administer field sobriety test, officers must be trained and certified. A lack of training and certification calls into question all of the officers conclusions as to performance on the FST’s.
Blood and Breath Tests
The Supreme Court held recently that a search warrant must be obtained prior to taking a persons blood for examination as to whether or not that person was under the influence alcohol or drugs. Whether a search warrant was obtained, and whether there was sufficient probable cause in order to obtain a search warrant or another two issues which need to be examined.
In-Dash Audio / Video
Today, most patrol cars will have in-car audio and video. If an officer does not have audio and video, the district attorney will have to rely on the officer’s testimony as proof. Not having audio and video, or having a blood result, would leave very little evidence to present to a jury.