If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence in Tennessee, you’ve likely found yourself wondering: is it possible to get my DUI case dismissed? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. It depends on various factors, including your case’s specific circumstances, the jurisdiction, and the strength of your defense. In this blog post, we’ll delve into this topic, shedding light on the possibilities and the legal process that could lead to the dismissal of a DUI case in East Tennessee.
Understanding the Burden of Proof in DUI Cases
In any criminal proceeding, including DUI cases, the prosecution carries the burden of proof. This means that the State is responsible for establishing the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard is the highest level of proof required in a legal case and is designed to ensure the protection of the accused against wrongful conviction.
When it comes to DUI cases, several elements must be proven by the prosecution:
- Driving or physical control of a Vehicle: The prosecution must prove that the defendant was in actual physical control of a vehicle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle was in motion or that the defendant was caught in the act of driving.
- Public road, highway, street or alley, shopping center, trailer park or apartment complex, or any other premises generally frequented by the public at large: Being on private property does not constitute a DUI unless the state can establish you drove onto the private property from a public road while impaired.
- Under the Influence/Impairment: It needs to be established that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of these substances at the time they were operating the vehicle. This is typically demonstrated through evidence of impaired driving behavior, clues of impairment during the physical contact phase of a DUI investigation such as slurred speech, red watery and bloodshot eyes, unsteadiness on feet, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, field a toxicology report in drug cases and field sobriety tests.
If the prosecution fails to establish any of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then a not guilty verdict may be rendered at trial. Similarly, your attorney can establish the lack of evidence of one of the elements to the prosecutor or at a preliminary hearing to receive a dismissal through negotiations or a judge at the preliminary hearing. In other words, the charges could be dismissed. Our attorneys at Barnes & Fersten are experienced in identifying weak points in the prosecution’s case and creating reasonable doubt.
Winning Suppression Issues and Establishing Lack of Probable Cause
One effective strategy in getting a DUI case dismissed involves winning suppression issues during a preliminary hearing or motion hearing. This essentially means contesting the legality of the evidence the prosecution intends to use against you.
When the court suppresses evidence, it means that this particular evidence cannot be used in court, often because it was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. In the context of DUI cases, this could include an illegal stop without reasonable suspicion of a traffic offense or crime, illegal seizure through taking your license, keys, or asking you to get out of the vehicle without reasonable suspicion and requesting you to conduct field sobriety testing without reasonable suspicion. There are dozens of illegal stops and illegal seizure issues that only a trained DUI attorney who practices DUI law on a daily basis and stays current on the Tennessee courts rulings knows to challenge. The only way to suppress the evidence and request a dismissal for no evidence remaining of impairment is by challenging the evidence correctly through a motion or at a preliminary hearing.
A significant part of this strategy involves establishing a lack of probable cause for the arrest or the seizure of our clients’ person through an illegal stop, illegal seizure or illegal arrest. Probable cause is a requirement under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. In the context of a DUI stop, an officer must have probable cause that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to place the driver under arrest or to seize the driver’s person. Reasonable suspicion, although a lower standard than probable cause, is required to request you to pull over via blue lights, request you out of the vehicle or request you to do field sobriety tests.
For instance, if an officer stopped you without reasonable suspicion that you were violating the law, any evidence obtained during that stop could be suppressed. Our attorneys have gotten cases dismissed at preliminary hearings and/or reduced through negotiations based on the lack of reasonable suspicion for a stop. Reasonable suspicion requires more than a mere hunch of illegal activity but rather specific and articulable facts. For example, recently, our attorneys had a hearing where the officer alleged our client crossed over the lane line causing our client to be pulled over for failure to maintain lane. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that touching the line is insufficient to stop a vehicle. Although the officer originally testified that our client crossed over the line, on cross examination our attorneys were able to get the officer to admit they merely touched the line resulting in a dismissal of the DUI and drug charges that were found in the vehicle following the illegal stop. On another occasion, our attorneys got a case dismissed where the officer immediately placed our client in handcuffs based solely on a traffic violation, which requires a citation rather than an arrest so all the evidence of DUI thereafter from field sobriety testing and a blood test were suppressed. Those are two mere examples of the many legal issues our attorneys explore on a daily basis in an endeavor to get the best result possible for our clients.
Similarly, if an officer arrested you without probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence, the results of any subsequent breath or blood tests could be suppressed. There are also numerous requirements for blood or breath tests to be admissible by statute and court rulings that must be followed correctly or else the blood or breath test results are subject to suppression if challenged correctly by your DUI attorney.
At Barnes & Fersten, our DUI attorneys are skilled at identifying situations where a client’s rights may have been violated. We meticulously examine every detail of your case, from the reason for the initial stop to the administration of sobriety tests, to find potential grounds for suppression. Successfully getting evidence suppressed can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case, and in some instances, lead to the dismissal of the DUI charge. It’s one of the many ways our attorneys work to protect our clients’ rights and fight for the best possible outcome in their DUI case.
Jurisdictional Differences and The Role of Legal Issues
Understanding the legal landscape of DUI cases requires more than just knowing the laws – it also involves recognizing the nuances that come with different jurisdictions. In East Tennessee, jurisdictions handle DUI cases differently, which could significantly impact the trajectory and outcome of your case.
Some jurisdictions in East Tennessee, for example, will not reduce a DUI to a lesser offense like reckless driving. However, they may be more inclined to dismiss a case entirely if a serious legal issue is present. This could be due to concerns about the admissibility of evidence, issues with the legality of the arrest, or other factors that may undermine the prosecution’s case.
Understanding these jurisdictional differences is critical. For instance, knowing that a certain jurisdiction is more likely to dismiss rather than reduce charges might influence your defense strategy. It could also affect negotiations with the prosecutor or decisions about whether to pursue a trial or accept a plea deal.
Our attorneys are intimately familiar with the legal terrain of various jurisdictions across East Tennessee. This includes Knox County, Blount County, Loudon County, Anderson County, Sevier County, Union County, Campbell County, Cumberland County, and many others. We leverage this local knowledge to develop a tailored strategy for your specific case, helping to ensure you get the best possible outcome.
Moreover, we’re committed to keeping our clients informed every step of the way. We’ll guide you through the process, helping you understand what to expect in the specific jurisdiction of your case. Our goal is not only to provide you with a robust defense but also to give you the information and support you need to navigate this challenging time with confidence.
Your Defense Matters - Contact Barnes & Fersten
DUI charges are serious, and the consequences can be severe. However, it’s important to remember that being charged with a DUI does not automatically mean you’ll be convicted. The strength of your defense is crucial, and that’s where our DUI lawyers come in.
At Barnes & Fersten, we pride ourselves on our ability to navigate the complex legal landscape of DUI cases, always fighting tirelessly for our clients. If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in East Tennessee, don’t leave your future to chance. Contact the DUI attorneys at Barnes & Fersten today. We’ll evaluate your case, explain your options, and devise a strategic defense aimed at securing the best possible outcome for you.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.