DUI, Ignition Interlock, and The State Legislature

An ignition interlock is required to obtain a restricted driver's license if you have been convicted of a DUI charge in Tennessee. In the initial implementation of the ignition interlock device, I was in favor of it's use. It allowed those with multiple DUI convictions to get a restricted license rather than drive under the radar. It also removed the geographical and time restrictions of driving. It also encouraged those who submit to the test to be more aware of their drinking habits.


As of July 2016, the use of the ignition interlock has amped up. In part due to the work of the industry and the Tennessee State Legislature.

Three big changes happened. First. you must have an ignition interlock installed even if you elect not to get a restricted driver's license. Some folks who live in downtown Nashville may use alternative transportation during the one year suspension. Now, they will have to install an ignition interlock device(IID) when then get their regular license. Secondly, one has to have 120 days of negative tests before the IID device can be removed from their car. One positive test starts the clock back to day one. It is possible you could have the device on your car. I think the IID folks want to keep a IID on your car for as long as possible at $90.00 per month. Finally, one was allowed to drive a company owned vehicle without an interlock device if the company knew of his conviction. Now folks lose their jobs because they can't drive the parts truck or the company van.

Who monitors the IID ? The provider who is making $90.00 a month. How do you double check or contest their work ? Who knows ? You get bogged down by the bureaucracy of the Tennessee Department of Safety. Take a look at Tennessee Code annotated 55-10-425.Here is a link to the new statute. I wonder who drafted it.

Maybe it is too much of a good thing.

Continuing Legal Education for DUI Lawyers

Last week , I was returning from Chicago where I gave a presentation to the folks that attended the DUIDLA summer session. Here is a short listing of some of the  topics that were presented.

  • Cross-examination
  • Canadian Travel When One has A DUI Conviction
  • FAA Reporting and Pilot Medical Clearance Issues
  • Crime Lab Discovery
  • Blood Alcohol Defenses
  • Challenging Breath Test Results

These were just a sampling of the topics presented. The point is does it matter what continuing education courses (CLE) that your DUI lawyer takes. All lawyers in Tennessee are required to take 15 hours of CLE each year.  Some lawyers take what ever course is the cheapest. It does not make any difference what course they take. It could be divorce law , probate law or any other course. Another method of taking classes is to take any class in order to meet the deadline. I knew of one lawyer who took an Admiralty course just to comply with the deadline. Some lawyers take CLE courses strictly in their field of practice in order to keep abreast of the changes in their field.

Hiring the right DUI lawyer is an important decision. One of the questions you might ask is what course do you take to satisfy your CLE. Do you want a DUI lawyer that takes courses that keep them up to date on the new trends in DUI defense or do you want a lawyer who takes courses in some random area of the law. One thing is certain , the assistant district attorneys who are prosecuting DUI cases across Middle Tennessee are being trained in DUI prosecution. Maybe you should hire a well trained lawyer as well.


Fair DUI Flyer and Tennessee DUI Roadblocks

The Fair DUI Flyer created quite a stir recently. A copy of the image is at the top of the post.  Recently , someone used the flyer and entered  a DUI checkpoint using the information in the flyer. The basic concept is that you put your driver's license in a bag and stick it on the outside of your window. When you roll up to the DUI check point , you don't roll your wind down so the police can't smell alcohol.  The video of this tactic went viral.Cute trick. I imagine they got the idea from a DUI checkpoint video from Murfreesboro, Tn which was videoed and the citizen did everything a lawyer would suggest.

The Fair DUI Flyer takes it a step further by putting the documents on the outside of the window. In theory , the police have access to the required documents therefore no interaction is required. How would the Fair DUI  Flyer play out under Tennessee law ?

Tennessee Code Annotated 55-50-351 requires a driver's license shall display the license on demand when operating a motor vehicle . It appears the Fair  DUI Flyer complies with Tennessee law depending on your definition of display.  Tennessee motorists also has to display proof of insurance and valid registration.. One could put the documents in a bag displaying the information. My guess is it would be dropped in the plastic baggie and the police office would ask you to get it out.

Here is my thought on the Fair DUI Flyer . I wouldn't try it out on the road .  It is cute for a video trick but in the real world putting your license taped to your window is asking for a trip to the jail. One takeaway is to have your registration and proof of insurance in a clear plastic envelope so you can easily give it to police. remember, don't photo copy your driver's license and put it in the bag too. It is a crime to display a photo copy of your license in Tennessee.


Issue Spotting in Tennessee DUI Cases

I was reviewing my material for a CLE presentation  for the Tennessee Bar Association tomorrow. The topic I was assigned was the " Nuts and Bolts of DUI Defense ". One of the big mistakes that I witness among  Tennessee DUI  lawyers is identifying the issue. While I was at the Trial Lawyers College , one of the instructors asked me how I would hunt buffaloes. Would you use a rifle or a shotgun ? The takeaway point is if you are going to bring down a big animal . You want a laser guided scope on a rifle to bring it down. Much is the same in a DUI trial. Instead of fighting every issue , focus on the key issue that can bring home a not guilty verdict.

Here is a short list to help in identifying the issues in a DUI case ;

  • What was the driving ? was there probable cause to stop the accused ? Was there evidence of good driving ?  Physical control case ?
  • Did the accused make a admission of drinking ? How many ? Duration ? Time of last alcohol consumption ?
  • Was there physical evidence in the car ?
  • Field sobriety Tests ?
  • Was there a video ?
  • How was their interaction with the police ?
  • Witnesses ?

Once you identify the issue of the case , then you will be able to craft your theory of innocence. The key point is don't shoot a buffalo with a shotgun . Find your one or two key issues and drive your point home.