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Tennessee Supreme Court reaches decision in DUI fee case

In an earlier post, we told you about a case our attorneys had spent years litigating that challenged the constitutionality of a fee arrangement associated with statewide DUI convictions. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) was receiving a $250 fee for every successful DUI prosecution involving blood or breath test evidence.

Our attorneys argued — and the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals agreed —  that the fee arrangement was unconstitutional, as it provided a financial incentive for forensic scientists toward evidence that would lead to a conviction. The state legislature agreed that the fee arrangement was unfair, and earlier this year they acted to close the loophole that allowed those fees to go directly to the TBI instead of to the state’s general fund.

The Tennessee Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Criminal Appeals, though the Court applauded the legislature for changing the statute. The Supreme Court decided that the fee arrangement does not unduly influence forensic scientists, who are salaried employees with, according to the court’s decision, “no personal, direct, substantial pecuniary interest in producing a particular test result.”

The Supreme Court found that scientists in charge of processing blood and breath test results serve no judicial or even quasi-judicial function, so the temptation to falsify results is so remote as to be a non-factor in prosecutions.

Even though the Supreme Court’s decision disagrees with our position on this issue, our firm continues to believe in passionately representing our clients and addressing injustices and inequalities within the criminal justice system. We are committed to protecting our clients’ interests vigorously in all DUI-related and other criminal defense matters.

This matter may not be over. A Petition for Cert to the United States Supreme Court to seek review of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision can still be filed within 90 days of the decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court wherein we can ask this nation’s highest court to review this decision.

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