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Unfortunately, if you are reading this it likely means you have recently been arrested for DUI and need a Knoxville DUI lawyer. You are likely feeling a roller coaster of emotions such as nervousness, anxiousness, and fear of the effect a DUI conviction may have on your life, your family’s life, and your livelihood. Our team of attorneys are here to guide you through your concerns and ensure the court process goes as smoothly as possible under the circumstances.
It is imperative that you contact a Knoxville DUI attorney to discuss your case to start preparing your defense immediately because the decisions you make today can affect you for the rest of your life. Unlike most misdemeanors, and even some felonies, a DUI conviction remains on your criminal record and on background checks for your entire life. A DUI conviction in the state of Tennessee cannot be expunged.
A common misconception regarding the implied consent law is that you automatically must provide a blood or breath sample if it is requested by law enforcement. However, the officer must have probable cause to believe you are under the influence of an intoxicant affecting the central nervous system, and therefore your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle to request a chemical test. This means that an officer cannot legally ask any motorist to provide chemical testing. Instead, the officer must specify specific facts to establish probable cause that a chemical test would likely provide additional evidence that the individual is too impaired to safely operate a vehicle.
If you refuse a blood or breath test the officer will charge you with implied consent unless the officer gets a search warrant thereafter. However, a DUI conviction carries a similar loss of license with the additional punishment of 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days in jail. Thus, providing a blood or breath sample is only giving the state more evidence to use against you to convict you of DUI. Moreover, as this page will discuss in further detail, you do not automatically lose your license if you are charged with implied consent because there are still numerous legal issues that may allow your Knoxville DUI lawyer to get your implied consent charge dismissed.
No, the judge will not take your license at your first court date. You are entitled to a hearing where the court would have to find two main requirements: (1) the officer had probable cause authorizing the officer to legally request a blood or breath sample; and (2) the officer properly advised you of the consequences of failing to comply by agreeing to provide a sample. The advisement of the consequences of refusing a chemical test does not have to be specific. This means the officer does not have to specify the length of time for a license suspension but only the general advisement that the motorist’s license will be suspended for failure to provide a chemical sample.
As such, the implied consent charge will not be addressed at your first court date. You also do not have a right to a jury trial on an implied consent charge; although you may have the implied consent charge tried by a jury under limited circumstances which your Knoxville DUI lawyer can advise you of.
Preliminary Hearings: Instead, the implied consent charge will be addressed at a preliminary hearing if you have a preliminary hearing. Many times, the implied consent charge will be handled jointly with the DUI during plea negotiations. In fact, in most cases where the State offers to reduce a DUI to a reckless driving, reckless endangerment or another lesser charge from a DUI, the State may dismiss the implied consent charge resulting in no loss of license.
Once we are retained to represent you, the first step after notifying the court that we are representing you is to collect all the potential evidence in your case including but not limited to any 911 calls, police body camera, police dash camera from the cruiser, implied consent form, breathalyzer slip, and/or toxicology report from a blood draw. This is an important step that a skilled Knoxville DUI lawyer will undertake immediately.
Regardless how well trained a police officer may be, they often make mistakes that can result in a judge dismissing your case entirely or a prosecutor offering a favorable plea agreement. Our Knoxville DUI attorneys will analyze:
All our Knoxville DUI lawyers will review the evidence in your case then meet to discuss the specific defense strategy for your case based upon the evidence we have reviewed and potentially some of the things we learned about you and how a DUI conviction will personally affect you differently than someone else. In doing so, you receive the collective decision of our entire team to find the best approach to receiving the best outcome possible in your case.
Countless nuances in DUI law exist that some Knoxville DUI lawyers routinely miss simply because they are not familiar with the law on DUI cases. Understanding the Tennessee Supreme Court and Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals decisions and staying up to date with them allow our attorneys to get favorable results because we understand when an officer messed up part of their investigation and the impact it may have on our clients’ case. Our Knoxville DUI lawyers attend DUI conferences and trainings across the country to provide you with the highest quality representation.
Barnes & Fersten provide a professional service with a personal approach because everyone’s case is different, and everyone’s life experiences is different. You are more than just a mugshot of someone arrested for DUI but a person with real life experiences and real effects of a conviction.
The State must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
Another element of a DUI that many Knoxville DUI lawyers who do not practice DUI defense on a regular basis often glance over is the location of the offense. This element comes up in a few key scenarios:
One question you likely have is what are the consequences if I were to be found guilty of DUI? Will I go to jail? Lose my license? How can I drive to work if I lose my license? The answer to these questions depend largely on your BAC, whether there was a child in the vehicle, and how many prior DUI convictions you have, if any. A good Knoxville DUI lawyer will be able to answer this question for you based on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
As the law stands, DUI convictions remain on your record forever because they are not expungement eligible. This means that a DUI conviction will have a lifelong effect on your life. Additionally, a prior DUI conviction may be used against you to enhance your mandatory minimum punishment if you are charged with a DUI within ten (10) years of a prior DUI conviction and then the state can go back an additional ten (10) years for additional DUI convictions.
Even if you are under the age of 21, you can be charged and convicted of DUI first offense for having a BAC above .08 or being impaired as outlined above. This means that a 16 to 21 year old can receive anywhere from 48 hours to 364 days in jail, and loss of license for 1 year. However, it is also possible to get the charge reduced to an underage DWI, which our Knoxville DUI lawyers believe has numerous benefits as outlined below.
DUI By Allowing: First Offense
DUI by allowing, or DUI by consent, is a charge where someone who was not even driving the vehicle is charged with DUI. This usually occurs when the owner of the vehicle is a passenger in the vehicle causing the police officer to assume that you, as the passenger, authorized the driver to drive impaired with knowledge that they were drinking and impaired.
Multiple additional defenses are available in this case, and it is critical your Knoxville DUI lawyer knows how to defend against this specific charge. A critical evaluation of the officer’s investigation into you as the passenger, your knowledge of the amount the driver consumed, and your opinion regarding the driver’s level of impairment is all essential to your defense, as well as your lack of knowledge in conducting field sobriety testing.
First Offense DUI above .20 BAC:
Second Offense DUI:
Third Offense DUI:
Fourth Offense DUI:
Significantly, just because you are charged with a second, third, fourth or subsequent offense DUI, it does not mean your Knoxville DUI lawyer cannot negotiate for you to plead guilty to a lesser offense to reduce the mandatory minimum jailtime. The facts and circumstances of your case and/or life may affect our ability to either get a dismissal, a reduction to reckless driving or reckless endangerment or a reduction to a lower grade of DUI, such as a second offense DUI reduced to a first offense DUI.
Our Knoxville DUI lawyers’ goal is to avoid a DUI conviction altogether, if possible, based on the facts and circumstances of your case. However, if you are convicted of DUI, your driving privileges will be revoked unless you receive an Order signed by the judge authorizing you to have a restricted license.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, there are two different types of restricted driver’s licenses that you can discuss with our Knoxville DUI attorneys to see which one you may be able to receive.
Within ten (10) days of receiving the Restricted Driver’s License Order signed by the judge, in most cases, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your motor vehicle and receive additional SR-22 insurance coverage. You will bring two certified copies of the Order signed by the judge with proof of the ignition interlock installation and SR-22 insurance coverage to the DMV within ten (10) days of receiving the Order to receive a physical and valid restricted driver’s license. This restricted license allows you to drive anywhere in the country at any time so long as you have the ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle you are operating.
Similarly, a Restricted Driver’s License Order will need to be signed by the judge. However, under this restricted license, you will not be required to have an ignition interlock device. Alternatively, this restricted license is available in much more limited circumstances and only allows you to drive to specific places including school, work, church, AA meetings, inpatient or outpatient treatment. If you are caught driving anywhere not designated and at a time not designated by the Order you may be charged with driving on a revoked license without an ignition interlock. Your Knoxville DUI lawyer may discuss whether you may be eligible for a geographic restriction license, rather than an ignition interlock device. There are three circumstances in which this license may be available:
Our Knoxville DUI lawyers review each stage individually before looking at the case in its entirety because there are issues with police investigation we know to look for during each phase. A Knoxville DUI attorney who does not view each phase individually is failing you as your attorney because they may miss a significant defense in your case.
The first phase of a DUI investigation is the vehicle in motion phase, or your driving that caused the officer to pull you over. Here, our Knoxville DUI attorneys look at the reason for the stop and whether it is a valid seizure. Once the officers blue light you, they must have had reasonable suspicion or probable cause that you violated a traffic violation or criminal offense, except for under other very limited circumstances, such as community caretaking or anonymous 911 calls, that must be closely scrutinized.
While there are countless traffic violations that authorize an officer to pull your vehicle over, the NHTSA has identified 24 nighttime cues of impairment. Significantly, although an officer may note the cue of impairment as part of his rationale for placing you under arrest, many of the cues of impairment do not justify a valid and legal traffic stop because they are not against the law. For example, driving below the speed limit, varying speed, unnecessarily accelerating, or decelerating and stopping problems may be indicative of impairment even though it cannot justify a legal traffic stop. Significantly, driving above the speed limit (speeding) is not indicative of impairment.
Again, as the name implies, the second phase of a DUI investigation is the initial interaction between you and the officer, as well as the observations the officer makes during the interaction. You will likely see in the officer’s sworn statement that you had red, watery and bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, unsteadiness on feet, and a strong odor of alcohol. These are all potential signs of impairment during the personal contact phase. However, there are numerous reasons why you may exhibit those signs of impairment other than impairment. It is important that your Knoxville DUI lawyer explores reasons why you exhibited those signs of impairment to point out to the officer during cross examination, a judge, prosecutor and potentially a jury one day.
The final phase is the standardized field sobriety tests. Unfortunately, most people are not aware that these tests are fully voluntary, and you are not required to perform these tests, nor are there any consequences under the law for refusing to perform these tests. More information regarding each of the standardized field sobriety tests can be found here.
Many people believe when officers read the implied consent form that the officer would take there license as soon as they say no to providing a sample or that their license will be taken on their very first court date. However, that is not true. Your license will not be taken from you unless you are either convicted of DUI or found in violation of the implied consent law at a hearing or through negotiations. Our goal as Knoxville DUI lawyers is to prevent both of those scenarios from happening so you can keep your license if possible.
The short answer is yes. Every case is different, and we cannot guarantee a particular result, but our attorneys have prevented our clients from getting a DUI conviction in countless cases where blood or breath results were above a .08, including blood results as high as .25.
Your blood or breath results being above a .08 does not necessarily mean you will be convicted of DUI. Blood or breath results are not automatically admissible in court. There are numerous prerequisites that must be met for the evidence to be admissible. First and foremost, an officer cannot request anyone to give a blood or breath sample, but the officer must establish probable cause. If we can establish the officer lacked evidence sufficient to establish probable cause, then your blood results cannot be used against you.
Moreover, there are numerous issues that may allow us to suppress or prevent the evidence from being used against you in court such as a chain of custody issue, lack of voluntary consent, lack of proper testing of the breathalyzer to ensure its accuracy, among many others that our attorneys look for in each blood or breath case.
For example, a lack of voluntary consent issue may exist in your case if the officer was coercive and made it seem as if you did not have a choice because they would get a search warrant if you did not comply. Another example is where an individual is involved in a serious accident, receives treatment on the way to the hospital via ambulance and either in the ambulance and/or at the hospital is given pain medications that impact the ability of the individual to truly give voluntary consent. If this is an issue in your case, our Knoxville DUI lawyers will discuss it with you and discuss the potential need to have your doctor or another doctor who can be qualified as an expert, testify to your ability to give consent under the circumstances of the specific medications provided to you.
When it comes to fighting the legal charges brought against you, it’s important to know that you have rights. A DUI charge is no different. However, having rights might not do you any good, if you are not familiar with them. We will make you aware of what those rights are, and how they can apply to your case.
Immediately after a DUI arrest, it’s crucial to follow pretrial release or bond conditions and report to the pretrial office within 72 hours if required. Reviewing and adhering to these conditions is essential to avoid potential revocation of bond or pretrial release. Contacting a DUI attorney as soon as possible can alleviate stress and provide guidance, as well as help amend bond or pretrial conditions, such as ignition interlock devices, scram devices, drug testing, or reporting requirements. An experienced lawyer can potentially remove or amend unfair conditions promptly, even before your first court date. For more insights on navigating the aftermath of a DUI arrest, read our blog post on the topic.
If you’re pulled over for DUI in Tennessee, exercise your right to remain silent, only providing basic information such as your driver’s license, registration, and insurance. Limit conversation and remember that standardized field sobriety tests are voluntary; refusing them may lead to arrest, but can prevent additional evidence against you. Though providing a blood or breath sample can make the state’s case easier, there can be issues with their admissibility and reliability. A shorter interaction with the officer and limited conversation can make it more difficult for the state to prove impairment. Read our blog on this topic for more information.
Tennessee enforces strict DUI laws, even for first-time offenders. A first-time DUI conviction carries a minimum of 48 hours in jail, with credit for time served during arrest, up to a maximum of 11 months and 29 days in jail or on probation. Additional mandatory requirements include a one-year license revocation, fines between $350 and $1,500, court costs, and a 12-hour state-approved DUI education class. Under specific circumstances, mandatory minimum jail time may be enhanced: seven days for a BAC above .20, and an additional 30 days if a child was in the vehicle. Criminal history and other factors can influence the State’s offer and potential jail time. Our DUI attorneys strive to avoid DUI convictions, mandatory jail time, and license revocation through negotiations, reducing charges, or seeking dismissals. If a conviction is unavoidable, we work tirelessly to minimize the client’s risk and penalties. Our blog on this subject goes into more detail.
Most lawyers will charge separately for General Sessions Court and Criminal Court because most DUI cases get resolved prior to a jury trial in Criminal Court. A DUI lawyer may cost anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000 for the General Sessions Court phase of your case.
A DUI case takes a lot of time and resources to defend properly with a clear strategy and end goal that meets the client’s realistic expectations and goals in retaining representation. An attorney cannot take on hundreds of cases for a low fee and expect to be successful in reaching their clients’ goals. That is why Barnes & Fersten limit the number of cases we take on throughout the year to ensure we have the time and resources to focus our attention on you, our potential client, because your needs should not be ignored during the most difficult and stressful time of your life in facing potential jail time and a loss of your driving privileges.
We understand that no one expects to be arrested for DUI or spend a large lump sum of money on retaining an attorney. For this reason, we offer payment plans with a down payment followed by monthly payments. We do not want your financial situation to cause you to be unable to receive the highest level of DUI defense possible with a strategic plan and a cohesive team of attorneys all working together towards the best result possible in your case.
Arraignment: Your first court date is usually an arraignment. The purpose of the arraignment is to ensure that you understand:
If you hire an attorney before the arraignment, generally your lawyer will be able to take care of the arraignment for you and you do not have to appear for the initial court date. The reasoning being that you already discussed the charges you are facing and your bond conditions with the attorney you retained. Your attorney and the prosecutor will pick a new court date generally 1 to 2 months from the arraignment to provide us with time to prepare your case to negotiate with the prosecutor about your case.
Maybe. At Barnes & Fersten we do everything we possibly can to prevent you from being convicted of DUI if possible. We will review all the evidence in your case but also learn a lot about you and the effect that a conviction would have on your life to use to your advantage during negotiations with the prosecutor assigned to your case. Although every case is different and no lawyer can ethically promise you a result, we routinely get cases reduced or dismissed where our clients have provided a blood or breath sample with a BAC above a .08% and even as high as a .30%.
There are a variety of ways that we can get a case resolved even with a BAC above a .08% because of a serious legal issue and/or constitutional violation that occurred during the officer’s investigation. Hiring a highly skilled DUI attorney gives you the best chance at avoiding a DUI conviction and the collateral consequences of a conviction that remains on your record for life.
Potentially. The attorneys at Barnes & Fersten will do everything possible to get your DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving, or even dismissed entirely, if possible. Generally, a reckless driving plea offer eliminates a lot of risk and is a favorable resolution in most DUI cases to reduce the risk of proceeding to trial on a case that is strong for our client. A reckless driving is a Class B misdemeanor that in most circumstances will require six (6) months of unsupervised probation (DUI carries 11 months and 29 days), no jailtime, no loss of license, and no fine.
Tennessee is very strict on DUI charges, even for an individual who has no criminal history, but our attorneys have a longstanding history of getting cases reduced to reckless driving or reckless endangerment even in cases where a blood or breath result comes back above a .08%
Following an arraignment in East Tennessee, your case transitions into a comprehensive process encompassing several crucial stages. First is the investigation stage, where our attorneys diligently accumulate key evidence, including bodycam footage and medical records. Next are the status dates – a series of court appearances that enable us to negotiate with the prosecutor, address legal issues surrounding your arrest, and potentially challenge the arresting officer’s credibility. The final step entails preliminary hearings, where opportunities may arise to dismiss your case or secure valuable testimony for your defense.
When hiring a DUI attorney, it’s essential to read reviews, blogs, and content about various attorneys to find the best fit for your needs. While all criminal defense attorneys handle DUI cases, not all are well-versed in the nuances of DUI law. Ask questions to understand their legal strategy, how they will fight for you, and whether you’ll have a single attorney or a team defending you. A competent DUI attorney should not only be knowledgeable about the law but also genuinely care about your well-being. The attorneys at Barnes & Fersten are dedicated to staying up-to-date on recent legal decisions and continuously undergo additional training in DUI defense, attending seminars and training sessions across the country to provide clients with the most comprehensive DUI strategies possible. Read our blog on this subject for more information.
In Tennessee, a DUI can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on various factors. A first offense DUI is typically a Class A misdemeanor, with penalties including up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a minimum of 48 hours in jail (7 days if BAC is above .20), and a minimum fine of $350. However, under certain circumstances, a DUI can become a felony. These include a fourth or subsequent DUI offense, vehicular assault resulting from a DUI accident, or reckless endangerment charges related to the DUI incident. Read our blog on this topic for more detail.
Unfortunately, a DUI conviction will remain on your record forever unless the law changes because it is not expungement eligible. Therefore, it is essential you hire a trained DUI attorney to represent you to avoid being convicted of DUI if possible. A reduced charge such as a reckless driving or reckless endangerment is both judicial diversion eligible and expungement eligible and thus, it can be removed from your record. Similarly, if the charges are dismissed, we will file for the charge to be expunged from your record.
The misconception about being charged with DUI, or even implied consent, is that you automatically lose your license or that you will lose your driving privileges at your first court date. This is the furthest thing from the truth. You will only lose your license if you are convicted of DUI. However, our goal is always to fight for our clients to avoid a DUI conviction if possible and therefore the loss of license and mandatory jailtime of a DUI conviction.
If you are convicted of DUI or implied consent, you are most likely eligible for a restricted driver’s license. It is not automatic, but your lawyer can get an Order signed by the judge allowing you to drive either:
Out-of-state visitors dealing with a DUI charge in Tennessee face unique challenges, such as potentially higher bond amounts and stringent release conditions. Skilled DUI attorneys can help by advocating for reduced bond amounts, guiding clients through the legal process, and possibly waiving appearances at certain court dates to minimize inconvenience. If a case is resolved through negotiations, attorneys can work with clients to ensure that DUI school or other requirements are completed in their home state, and navigate any license revocation or ignition interlock requirements. The goal is to make the process as manageable as possible under the circumstances. Read our blog on this subject to learn more.
The possibility of having a DUI case dismissed in East Tennessee depends on a multitude of factors including the strength of your case, the specific jurisdiction, and whether there were any violations of constitutional rights or issues with the evidence. The State is tasked with proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty by substantiating each element of the offense. At Barnes & Fersten, our DUI attorneys have successfully received not guilty verdicts and dismissals by identifying and winning suppression issues, establishing a lack of probable cause, and highlighting any legal shortcomings in the case. Our team is dedicated to guiding clients through this process across various counties in East Tennessee, working tirelessly to fight against DUI charges.
Even if you are below the age of 21, you may be charged with DUI and suffer from the same consequences of a DUI 1st offense conviction including the mandatory jailtime and loss of license. However, under the underage DWI law, an individual between the ages of 16 and 21 may be convicted of DWI rather than DUI 1st offense.
Underage DWI does not carry any jailtime or probation time-period, but it has a mandatory one-year loss of license if convicted. However, unlike DUI 1st offense, an underage DWI is diversion-eligible meaning that the charge can be dismissed and expunged at the end of following any conditions negotiated with the prosecutor. Through a diversion, an underage DWI would not carry the mandatory loss of license which is extremely helpful because an underage DWI is not eligible for a restricted license.
Unlike a DUI first offense, whereas the legal limit is a BAC of .08%, an underage DWI only requires at BAC of .02% because of underage consumption being prohibited.
As DUI attorneys, we often get asked if sleeping in a car can lead to a DUI conviction. The answer is yes, even if the keys aren’t in the ignition or you’re in the backseat. Tennessee law focuses on “physical control” rather than driving while impaired. The state must prove you were impaired while in control of the vehicle, and the Tennessee Supreme Court has expanded this concept in various cases. Our attorneys understand these nuances and will challenge the state to prove physical control beyond a reasonable doubt. Read our blog on this topic to learn more.