A DUI is the most severe misdemeanor that an individual can be charged with. A DUI conviction cannot be avoided by judicial diversion nor can it later be expunged from one’s record. That is one of the primary reasons why DUI law is vigorously litigated in the trial court and the court of appeals for the State of Tennessee. Very recently a landmark case has come out on the state’s use of blood or breath alcohol testing to support a conviction of DUI.
In a thorough and extensive opinion, the Court of Appeals reviewed a constitutional due process challenge to the state’s use of these tests. The defendant argued that upon a plea or conviction for DUI, wherein a test was administered, the TBI would directly receive a payment of $250.00 for such testing. The defense showed that the TBI received more than $3,000,000.00 from this testing in 2016. Testimony from the director of the TBI showed that they were dependent upon these funds for the maintenance of their services.The court noted that could create bias in the testing of blood and breath samples by the TBI.
Moreover, the court noted the significance of those test results as approximately 85% of individuals testing above the legal limit pled guilty on the basis of the test result. Ultimately, the court held that the $250 payment to the TBI created a due process violation, and the Court of Appeals instructed the test results should be suppressed and not introduced into evidence. This holding impacts all pending DUI cases.
As of the date of this holding was filed, February 6, 2018, if you have a case involving a blood or breath sample, it is possible to have the same dismissed as a due process violation. Undoubtedly, the State will change the method for the TBI’s compensation for this testing so that it will no longer be a due process violation in the future. However, until the Legislature passes the necessary amendments, this case creates an opportunity for suppression of what would be the state’s best evidence in a DUI case.