Tennessee court uses DUI suspect’s words against him

Anyone who has ever seen a legal drama on TV knows the words, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” That well-known phrase is more than a phrase. It if very much a cornerstone of the legal system. A criminal suspect must be read his rights. He should also understand and employ those rights.

DUI arrest in Tennessee a few years ago serves as an example of why suspects should watch what they say. The 2009 traffic stop led to an arrest and DUI charge against a defendant. Now, years later, what that defendant reportedly said during his traffic stop solidified the DUI charge that was once dismissed.

If you were intoxicated, could you list the years in which you celebrated certain birthdays? Could you count backward while trying to balance on one foot? These are just a couple of examples of sobriety tests that drunk driving suspects in Tennessee might be put through. In the case of the above-mentioned suspect, he passed various tests like these.

Still, he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. The defendant and his DUI defense lawyer fought the charge. They argued that the arrest shouldn’t have taken place since the sobriety tests didn’t give authorities a reason to believe that he was too impaired to drive.

The Tennessee Supreme Court disagrees with that argument. The traffic stop was legal because the suspect had been driving on the wrong side of the road. Though the sobriety tests might not have incriminated the defendant, his supposed words did. Police claim that the defendant told them he had consumed too much alcohol to drive that day.

Failing to remain silent and not relying on the guidance of a criminal defense lawyer during or after a DUI arrest is too risky. As at least this one case proves, a suspect can say just one thing that effectively works against him and his fight against a drunk driving charge.

Source: The Tennessean, “TN Supreme Court upholds DUI arrest,” Sheila Burke, Feb. 21, 2014

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