Written by attorney Blake Kelley

Steps of a DUI charge in TN

Steps of a DUI charge (this is a work in progress) 1. Stop by an Officer of the Law: must have reasonable suspicion based on such actions or non-actions as lights not on, brake light, speeding and lately driver or passenger not wearing a seat belt. Our office has had clients that have been reported by citizens causing Officers to come to their home and begin an investigation by asking the driver out of the house and in front of the police car that has a camera. Driver has no obligation to open their home's door for the police unless the police have obtained a search warrant signed by a Judge. 2. Officer's Investigation: officer approaches asks questions, observes, asks driver to step out of vehicle and gets the driver to step into the view of a video camera in the patrol car , asks driver take field sobriety tasks. A driver has no obligation to submit to the field sobriety tasks or to answer any question. Officer asks driver to take breathalyzer or give blood. If a breathayzer is agreed to the officer has to observe the driver for at least 20 minutes before administering. If driver blows a .08 or higher plan on taking a DUI maybe some leniency or deal if the driver has an attorney. If a blood test is agreed to driver will be transported by police car to a hospital emergency room where blood will be drawn and sent to a lab. IF BLOOD IS GIVEN YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL FOR DUI AFTER SUBMITTING THE BLOOD, which is before the results come back, because the officer has already established probable cause for the arrest. If driver's blood is .08 or higher by blood plan on taking a DUI with even less room for a deal or leniency even if driver has an attorney. In Rutherford county the only test that is used is a blood test by all agencies (Sheriff's Office, MPD, Smyrna, Lavergne, AND THP). The breath test is considered by the police as reliable as the blood test but it takes longer to administer since you must observe the arrestee for 20 min prior to giving the test and if they belch, hiccup, or throw up the time must start over again to get an accurate test. The results of the breath test are immediate, whereas a blood tests results take about 60 days for alcohol content and 90 or more days for drug content. Consider that an officer of the law can request for the blood to be tested for substances other than alcohol. If any other impairing substance is detected with a low amount of alcohol, the prosecutor can argue that the combiined effects of the substances created an impairment high enough for a DUI. 3. Arrest and Charge: if no breath or blood test is agreed to the driver will be charged with DUI and DUI Implied Consent, two seperate charges only one can stand if found guilty. To obtain a TN driver's license one agrees to take a breath or blood test if requested by an officer of the law. The refusal to take the arresting agency's choice of the tests is a violation of TN's Implied Consent Law causing the driver to lose driving privileges for one year. Violation of Implied Consent is not a criminal offense but it is very costly and time consuming. The officer should have gathered enough evidence to have probable cause to make an arrest. 4. Booking and mandatory time in jail to sober. 5. Release from jail on own recognissance or bond. 6. First Appearance at the Court House in front of a Judge. This is to let the defendant know he/she has the right to have an attorney. Under the best situation (no hard evidence and no wrecks or injuries) some prosecutors are willing to reduce the charges in exchange for a guilty plea in order to reduce the Court time and costs for all. Prosecutors will not talk to a defendant who is representing themself but will talk to an attorney. Davidson and Williamson Counties are the least likely to deal down. Montgomery, Rutherford and Sumner County has been one of the most likely to deal down. Remember there is usually not a deal if there is a breath test or blood test that is at, over or close to the limit and is available to the prosecutor at the first appearance. DO NOT BLOW OR GIVE BLOOD if you have drank more than two drinks in the past five hours. Realize that driving is a privilege not a right afforded by the US or state Constitutions. But the Constitutions allow certain protections against being forced to give evidence. If you do not want to give up evidence, you do not have to but you will probably lose your license or you can give up evidence and definitely lose your license. 7a. Preliminary or Probable Cause Hearing at the Court House in front a Judge. This is still on the General Sessions level. 7b. if reasonable suspicion for the stop and probable cause for the arrest is found by judge the charge will be bound over to the Grand Jury, who always sends it to the Circuit Court level for trial, a step up from General Sessions. 7c1. if no reasonable suspicion for the stop or probable cause for the arrest is found by the judge, charge will be dismissed with the possibility of the Assistant District Attorney or Prosecutor taking case to the Grand Jury or not pursueing it, the ADA has a year from charge to decide which route. 7c2. if the charge goes to Grand Jury then they will indict and re-arrest and re-book through the jail 7c3. Release on bond or on own recognissance or rc 7c4. Arraignment: this is the first appearance at the Circuit Court level in which the Court asks if you have an attorney and you acknowledge reciept of the indictment. 8. Discussion: this is where a plea deal can be made or set issues for trial. 9.Motion date: this is a date for you and your attorney to present any oral arguments of your motions, such as to exclude evidence. 10. Pre-Trial Conference: a very quick meeting between the attorney, prosecutor and the Judge to double check the issues for trial. Usually done the Friday before the week of the trial. 11. Trial: get yourself a jury and and present your rebuttal and evidence at trial in Circuit Criminal Court. (work in progress)

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