In Tennessee, your first conviction for driving under the influence is not only considered a misdemeanor, it also requires jail time. You can face fines, court costs, and a temporary license suspension, and the DUI charge will be easily found on your criminal background search. What’s more, if a DUI crash results in injuries or fatalities, your legal consequences will be even more severe.
However, there are laws in place to protect you from being falsely arrested for a DUI, and defense arguments that can minimize your jail time. A DUI defense attorney will not only be a resource to explain what you may be facing, they can help defend your case by:
- Challenging SFTs and BAC Test Results
- Determining If Evidence Was Illegally-Obtained
- Negotiating A Less Severe Sentence
Defining A DUI
Tennessee law states that a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% is considered legally intoxicated and subject to a DUI charge when you climb behind the wheel.
Considering that a single glass of wine (5 oz) contains 12% alcohol content and a single serving of malt liquor (8 oz) contains 7% alcohol content, sometimes it does not take more than a drink or two for your blood supply to reach that .08% threshold. What’s more, BAC tests are accurate for 6 to 12 hours from your last drink.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that a BAC of .08% causes impaired judgment and poor muscle coordination. When driving, these symptoms can affect your perception, reaction time, and concentration.
It is also important to note that a DUI is not limited to the use of alcohol. You can also be charged with a DUI for being under the influence of marijuana, narcotic drugs, or other stimulants.
Defending Your DUI Case
While being charged with a DUI can seem black and white, there are several ways to defend the accusation against you. A DUI lawyer will know to do the following:
Challenge SFTs and BAC Test Results
To determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, law enforcement officers often conduct Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFTs): the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand tests. They may also administer a breath test (using a breathalyzer) to determine alcoholic content.
However, an officer must comply with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing standards – by properly instructing and demonstrating the tests – in order for their results to be accepted as evidence. When it comes to breath tests, Tennessee’s implied consent law requires you to comply with the officer; but, the officer must have probable cause that you are driving under the influence to administer the BAC test and for its results to be used as evidence against you.
Determine If Evidence Was Illegally-Obtained
You can only be arrested for a DUI offense if there was a reason to arrest you. In other words, if you did not commit a criminal offense while driving, or the officer did not have probable cause to believe you were drunk behind the wheel, then this is characterized as a false DUI arrest.
For example, running a stop sign, speeding, and swerving are reasons enough for an officer to pull you over and administer a BAC test and, naturally, so is a traffic accident. Pulling you over without cause and requiring a BAC or blood test, however, will not hold up in court and could be classified as illegally-obtained evidence.
Negotiate A Less Severe Sentence
If you were stopped by an officer without reasonable suspicion, your arrest lacked probable cause, or SFTs were administered improperly, there may not be enough evidence to use against you in court. When this happens, a court must throw out the results. This is known as the exclusionary rule. In a DUI case, excluded evidence can lead to a better plea bargain or potentially result in the dismissal of your charges entirely.
At the same time, in the event that SFT results are suppressed, an officer can still testify to your actions, statements, and other things they observed when making the traffic stop.