For a variety of reasons many DUI-accused individuals wait too long to hire an attorney to represent them in court. In this blog entry, we will try to give several explanations as to why you should immediately contact a lawyer as soon as you are released from jail. (See also the earlier article on our website by Jerry H. Summers as to how you should choose an attorney.)
1. Photo evidence of the route you were traveling when you were “blue lighted” (reason for stop) by law enforcement may be critical as to whether they had a legal basis to check you out and pull you over. Road changes by construction can make this evidence unavailable and later inadmissible.
2. Photos as to the location where you agreed to take field sobriety tests (FSTS) upon the request of the officer (you are not required to submit to any field sobriety tests, only to breath or blood tests at the discretion of the officer). The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA) training manual, which is the “bible” for the training of law enforcement officers in DUI cases, requires that they be performed on a “flat, level, dry surface by a person not over sixty years of age or fifty pounds overweight” in order to be valid.
3. Number 2 is particularly important on the Walk and Turn (WNT) field sobriety test since the officer may draw his own line for you to walk forward and backward nine (9) steps, and the line may not be level. A good DUI lawyer can explain how to check for a valid test.
4. Although not used very frequently, the prosecution has the right to bypass a preliminary hearing and go straight to the grand jury in a DUI case or vehicular assault charge. A second option would be for the State to present the case to a grand jury and then dismiss the warrant and proceed on an original presentiment, which would deprive the accused of an important opportunity to have a preliminary hearing so the defense can obtain a tape voluntarily under Tennessee law of part of the prosecution’s evidence. Hiring a knowledgeable DUI lawyer early on can protect this important constitutional right.
5. Law enforcement agencies may tape over or remove important videos of the jail entry or breath test operations after as little as thirty (30) days under the guise or claim they don’t have enough storage space to keep such evidence. An attorney can request or file a motion to preserve such evidence.
6. Although seldom used, a defendant has a right to an independent blood sample under Tennessee law and a request can be made for a separate drug sample when your blood is drawn by the police nurse. Your request could probably be denied, but if you can prove you made a request for an additional blood sample, you may be able to have an attorney request any drug test be suppressed because of the denial. If in this rare occasion you are given a sample of your blood, you should have your attorney immediately preserve it and have it analyzed by an independent lab.
These are just a few reasons to immediately employ a lawyer to protect your legal rights as soon as you are released from jail.