Have you ever crossed a line? Ever stumbled on an uneven surface? Ever, for just a moment, lose your focus? If you answered "yes", congratulations-you may be guilty of DUI.
Tennessee law recognizes one standard for impaired driving. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or above, you face a presumption of guilt. And if that is your BAC, you probably should not be driving, no matter how well you hold your liquor. Drunk driving is dangerous, and just not worth it.
Setting aside discussions of prudent conduct or doing the right thing, here are a few things to think about when charged with DUI, or drunk driving.
"But I have a prescription."
Having a prescription can help, but a jury may still find you guilty of driving under the influence. If you are impaired, even if on legally prescribed medication, you may still have violated the plain language of the statute. Put another way, a prescription is a shield, not a sword.
Let's say your blood levels of prescription medication fit the range of levels for therapeutic use. You may then have a defense on that basis against impairment. But even if the prosecutor agrees that there is a doubt as to impairment, you may still be responsible for property damage, or restitution.
If there is a defense against a charge of drunk driving based on the prescription of medication, it will be up to the defendant to provide credible evidence of prescription.
"But I just had two drinks."
As I am writing this, it is New Year's Eve, 2017 here in Cleveland, Tennessee. But this applies any time there is a question of intoxication and driving-or, under current law, even getting near your car when drunk.
Stopping drivers for driving badly is not the only way officers can check for intoxication. Welfare checks allow officers to investigate people who happen to be parked and inside a car. You don't have to be driving to get a DUI. The safest bet is to never have alcohol and a car in remotely the same area. But this is impractical, and situations where you are parked, not creating a hazard, and with no intent to drive, can result in a drunk driving conviction.
This may be hard to understand, but there is a legal basis for it. And recently, the courts have held that neither the 4th Amendment nor the Tennessee Constitution protects you against this sort of search. And once they've gotten to talk to you, it is a short step to a breathalyzer or blood test.
If you are caught in this situation, it is probably in your best interest to talk to a lawyer. And-probably-the sooner, the better.
"But I Wasn't High."
If you are caught with pills, meth, opiates, or other drugs in your system, you will have an uphill battle to prove you were not impaired. But, again, the only legally recognized standard for intoxication is for alcohol. Just because you have marijuana in your system doesn't mean you were impaired when you were driving.
Putting up a defense against a drug test requires thoughtful planning and a technical approach.
Tennessee's laws are designed to make it difficult to avoid a blood test. If you refuse, case law from the U.S. Supreme Court requires officers to get a warrant.
The collection of blood for testing is a medical procedure requiring medical equipment and training. Samples are tested by a state lab, meaning there will be a delay between taking the sample and testing the sample. This can cause changes in blood alcohol content. In some cases, the difference is enough to cast doubt on the result of the blood test.
If you or someone you love has been affected by a DUI stop, don't delay. Legal representation is probably in your best interest. And the sooner your lawyer starts working on your case, the better your chances for a good outcome. If you would like to talk to me about representation, call my Cleveland, Tennessee office at (423) 451-8568, or get in touch through my Facebook page.