Nashville Criminal Defense Blog

Court of Criminal Appeals rules roadblock unlawful, overturns DUI

There are certain rules law enforcement must follow when setting up sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks, but the Tennessee highway patrol failed to follow them in a 2012 roadblock in Harris County. Therefore, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals found the roadblock unconstitutional and vacated the DUI conviction of a Chattanooga man who was caught up in it.

The Chattanooga man was convicted in 2016 after filing motions to dismiss in 2013 and 2014. His was one of 285 cars stopped at the roadblock in 2012, but he was the only one arrested for DUI. The main question wasn't whether he was unfairly singled out, however. It was whether the highway patrol followed the law when setting up a surprise DUI roadblock at the exit to a tunnel.

How do Tennessee DUI laws differ from other states?

Nashville, Tennessee is a popular tourist destination. Many people who visit choose to go out to the bar but driving after the fact can prove consequential.

Each state varies in driving under the influence (DUI) penalties, so it is important to know the differences if you are charged with a DUI while visiting Tennessee.

Justice Dept challenges Tennessee's rule on exculpatory evidence

In the 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Constitution requires prosecutors to hand over to the defense any evidence that tends to prove the defendant's innocence. When they do not and the defendant is convicted, their failure or refusal to do so can result in a new trial.

However, the case is generally read as meaning that the prosecution must only hand over such evidence as is "material" to the case, meaning that it would probably affect the outcome. Who decides what is material? Prosecutors, on an honor system.

Arrested for criminal trespass while visiting Tennessee?

If you drive or wander onto someone's property in Tennessee, you might merely be asked to leave. Or, you might find yourself charged with criminal trespass. It's a misdemeanor charge but a conviction may result in a fine and at least some jail time.

In Tennessee, criminal trespass is defined as entering or remaining on someone's property without their consent. You can generally assume that consent is granted if the property is commercial in nature and open to the public, or when a private property owner has indicated the property is open to the public.

The secret consequences of underage drinking

For most college students, their first party is a rite of passage. First-year students will walk through the door of a fraternity or campus house and smile in the excitement of their newfound freedom. But with newfound freedom comes responsibilities.

Alcohol is a significant aspect of the college party scene, and students have to decide if they will drink or pass on the keg. They are responsible for their decisions, and if they choose to drink underage, they have to deal with unexpected consequences.

Commission: Forensic evidence in murder case was 'entirely wrong'

When it comes to blood-spatter analysis, "expert" witnesses for the prosecution are often law enforcement officers with just a week of training. This was so in the case of Joe B., a high school principal accused of murdering his wife. He was convicted in 1985 based on flecks of blood on a flashlight found in his car, which a detective convinced a jury came from his wife. Now, the Texas Forensic Science Commission has concluded that the analysis was "not accurate or scientifically supported" and, in fact, "entirely wrong."

The case occurred in 1985, before DNA analysis was available. Joe is asking for those blood flecks to be tested for his wife's DNA. He has always maintained his innocence and hopes the analysis will result in a new trial after nearly 30 years.

Judge: Tennessee can't take away driver's licenses for court debt

A federal judge has ruled that Tennessee's practice of revoking driver's licenses merely because defendants can't afford to pay court fines and fees. Since the law doesn't provide an exception for the indigent, it violates people's right to due process and equal protection under the law.

The case does not apply to license suspensions or revocations for cause, such as when defendants are convicted of DUI. It also doesn't affect jurisdictions outside Tennessee, even though about 40 states have similar laws. However, observers say the case could be a harbinger for reforms across the nation.

Beware: Increased 4th of July DUI enforcement has begun

Between June 25 and July 5, many Tennessee law enforcement agencies will be engaging in increased DUI enforcement surrounding Independence Day. The Tennessee Highway Safety Office provides funding for county sheriff's departments in concert with statewide and national messaging meant to reduce serious and fatal accidents involving drunk drivers.

You may notice more sobriety checkpoints along with high-visibility saturation enforcement until July 5.

Arrested at Bonnaroo or another Tennessee festival? Get help now

The 17th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester is only one of many fantastic music and cultural festivals in Tennessee that attract thousands of revelers from across the nation. While the festival is well worth the trip, some people end up having a negative experience. They end up arrested or cited for DUI, drug possession, assault or another crime.

This year, law enforcement groups patrolling the festival report arresting and cited at least 226 people -- a drop from last year's total. However, while citations were down significantly, arrests were up, according to the Coffee County Sheriff's Department. This year there were 45 arrests at Bonnaroo, up from 42 last year. Most of them involved drugs and alcohol.

Supreme Court affirms warrants required for searches around homes

The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed that police need to obtain a warrant to search the premises around someone's home, even if they think they have spotted stolen property there. They aren't allowed to take a quick peek and initiate a search based on what they see.

The case involved a stolen black and orange motorcycle. Its rider had managed to evade police in Virginia on two occasions. They tracked down the person they thought was the rider, so they went to his residence to take a look. As they had expected, a motorcycle was spotted under a tarp on the property. Was it black and orange? An officer entered the premises and moved the tarp to confirm that it was.

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
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Fifth Third Center, Suite 2260
Nashville, TN 37219

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