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Decision to lead to more Tennessee DUI arrests?

Law enforcement officers have several tactics that they may use when trying to determine if a motorist is under the influence in Tennessee. Often, the officer will notice some type of erratic driving behavior or a traffic violation and decide to make a traffic stop. If signs of impairment are observed, the officer may ask the driver to participate in field sobriety tests.

A recent Tennessee Supreme Court decision concerning field sobriety tests could potentially lead to an increase in the number of people charged with DUI. In this case, a motorist was spotting driving in the wrong lane. The driver admitted to drinking prior to the traffic stop, and the officer requested the man perform field sobriety tests.

The motorist successfully passed the tests administered, however, the officer decided to make an arrest anyway, based upon the facts at the scene. The driver had challenged the arrest in lower courts, which agreed with the man's assessment that police lacked probable cause.

The supreme court's decision disagreed with the lower courts. It held that the totality of the circumstances present (including the man smelling like alcohol, as well as the admission to drinking before driving) meant that the officer had made a valid arrest. The decision stated that field sobriety tests were only one factor that can be considered by police when they are deciding if an arrest should be made. Even if the motorist is completely successful in passing all of these tests, DUI charges could still result if police believe a crime has been committed.

In addition to this ruling, a group in Tennessee is trying to see tougher penalties imposed on certain drunk-driving offenses. These individuals want the legislature to make it possible for first-time drunk driving offenders who kill someone while driving drunk to be able to be charged with aggravated homicide. Currently, these drivers cannot be charged with this offense because it is limited to those motorists with prior drunk-driving related convictions on their records.

With the ever-changing nature of DUI laws, it is extremely important that individuals facing these charges present a strong defense to the allegations. Every conviction only increases the potential penalties that may be imposed, and prosecutors will be expected to be very tough against those individuals charged with DUI.

It is extremely important that you consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you have been arrested for driving under the influence. Your attorney can perform a careful review of the facts of your case, and determine which defenses may be helpful. If police behaved improperly, it may even be possible to have some of your charges reduced or dismissed entirely.

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Leonard M. Caputo, P.C.
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801 Broad Street, Suite 520
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Toll Free: 800-783-4240
Fax: 423-266-1547

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