Earlier this year, a previous post discussed the controversial investigative/legislative initiative that provided additional funding for every successful drunk driving prosecution. Back in February, the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals ruled, in a case argued by three of our own attorneys, that the fee arrangement (which provided a “bounty” of $250 to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) per DUI conviction) was unconstitutional. The case is currently heading to the Tennessee Supreme Court for review and a potentially precedent-setting verdict.
The Tennessee Legislature in response to the Court of Criminal Appeal decision introduced legislation that was passed by both houses that would take the $250 per conviction and place it into a general state fund, rather than a private TBI fund, and would leave it to the State to determine how much funding the TBI receives. Therefore, if the TBI needs more funds for forensic scientists they can request the money from the State rather than needing to increase their revenue through more DUI convictions. The bill now waits for Governor Bill Haslam’s signature to make it official.
The next step in this saga is for the case to go before the state’s supreme court, as will occur later this month. The fee arrangement was challenged initially on the premise that it was unconstitutional – and gave TBI forensic scientists an incentive towards conviction with regard to the single most important piece of evidence in almost every DUI case – the blood or breath test.
Other than a challenge to a TBI blood test, there are other reasons in which a person’s constitutional rights may be violated by an arrest for DUI. An officer could make a stop without reasonable cause or any evidence of wrongful activity, or may perform roadside tests incorrectly, or use testing equipment without properly maintaining or calibrating it. In these instances, an experienced criminal defense attorney can fight to suppress such evidence, which if successful could lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges.
If you or someone you love faces a drunk driving charge, don’t risk the possible penalties by going it alone. Have an attorney by your side experienced with these cases who can guide you through the process and fight to protect your freedom.