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Are Tennessee police inviting appeals of drunk driving arrests?

Regardless of partisanship, the subject of law enforcement has come up in the 2016 presidential debates. A recent article suggests that even Tennessee authorities may need to take a second look into enforcement practices.

Specifically, a recent federal lawsuit filing alleges that the Tennessee Highway Patrol is using a quota system for making arrests for driving under the influence. Typically, there is a natural progression to a DUI arrest, starting with the initial stop. If an officer observes erratic driving, he or she might pull over a driver for further investigation. 

If an officer observes various signs of intoxication after stopping a driver, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or trouble answering simple questions, he or she might have the driver step out of the vehicle and perform a field sobriety test. Failing that step may, in turn, lead to a breath test.

The instant lawsuit alleges that a motorcyclist was unlawfully charged with DUI based on a blood draw taken while he was recuperating from a crash in the hospital. The officer who responded to the crash scene couldn’t conduct a field sobriety test because the man was injured. Instead, he ordered a blood test for alcohol or drugs, which came back showing marijuana metabolites in the man’s system. A court agreed that the lab report showed insufficient substances, thus defeating the probable cause needed for a DUI arrest. However, the man was still subjected to a night in jail and the costs of posting bond and defending himself.

As a law firm that focuses on criminal defense, we are all too familiar with the often-aggressive tactics of law enforcement officials and prosecutors. Whether officials are trying to meet unofficial quotas or simply keep the number of arrests high, that is no excuse for violating an accused’s rights. A criminal defense attorney can help build a strong defense when an arrest record demonstrates the lack of probable cause.

Source:  knoxblogs.com, “Lawsuit contends TN Highway Patrol has quota system for DUI arrests,” Tom Humphrey, Feb. 11, 2016

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