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Report: Only 61% of people arrested for DUI are convicted

If you're arrested for DUI, you may notice an observer in the courtroom: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In 12 states across the nation, members of this anti-drunk-driving group send monitors into courtrooms "to make sure prosecutors and judges know that we are watching."

Although the group doesn't currently have court monitors in Tennessee, it intends to keep expanding its courtroom monitoring to new states until it can produce statewide and nationwide reports reflecting every jurisdiction.

MADD announced this spring that, on average nationwide, 61% of people accused of drunk driving end up getting convicted. The group says that it has observed some jurisdictions where the conviction rate was closer to 80%, but also some where the conviction rate was only around 40%.

If it were up to MADD, presumably, everyone accused of drunk driving would be convicted. However, that fails to take into account some important values we have as a society.

First, our courts are not supposed to convict people unless the state is able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that does not happen in a substantial minority of cases.

Second, police and prosecutors are not to use evidence that comes as a result of illegal searches and seizures. There are plenty of cases where the initial traffic stop, or a search performed as a result of that stop, was unlawful. The evidence should be suppressed to ensure that the government has an incentive to act legally.

Third, our justice system is set up to consider each person's case individually, and there are a number of valid defenses that could arise, depending on the individual circumstances. For example, people with certain medical conditions can appear to be intoxicated when they are not. The degree of the individual's culpability varies from person to person, and any conviction and sentence should reflect that.

There is -- and should be -- hope when you're accused of DUI

Drunk driving is a serious offense and not something we recommend doing. But people do make mistakes and miscalculations, often for relatively innocent reasons. It's too simplistic to say that everyone who is accused of a crime should be found guilty and receive the harshest possible sentence.

If you have been arrested for DUI, contact an experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible for an evaluation of your case. Find out what options might be available in your situation.

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