Knoxville's DUI and Criminal Defense Team

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Vehicular Homicide by Intoxication - Dismissed & Acquitted of Intoxication Count at Trial
After our client was involved in a tragic accident in which another driver died the State indicted him for Vehicular Homicide by Intoxication. The State had 2 experts testify that our client’s blood levels were extremely high for Oxymorphone and Xanax causing the accident. After a hard fought trial in which multiple expert witnesses were called the jury concluded intoxication was not the cause of the accident and death and convicted only on lesser counts saving significant potential years in prison.
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We Only Practice DUI and Criminal Defense

Most attorneys will take a variety of cases, from criminal defense to family law and car wrecks. We are dedicated to delivering the highest quality criminal and DUI defense possible, and that means focusing exclusively on criminal and DUI defense practice.

 
 
  • Payment Plans Available
 
  • Award-Winning Attorneys: Entire Team Works For YOU

Successful criminal defense takes the willingness to fight hard in the courtroom and an in depth understanding of the justice system and all the people who work within it. At Barnes & Fersten we work hard everyday to assure your case gets a winning plan that is executed to the fullest by investigating every potential avenue. This means we explore every potential legal defense and create leverage to put us in the best negotiating position possible to convince the State to offer a favorable plea agreement. We accomplish this by preparing every case for trial so that we know more about the case than the prosecutor, arresting officer, and state witnesses. We become the expert on your case so that we can either win at trial or win through a favorable plea deal.

DUI cases are unlike other criminal cases in many ways. There is a large body of law that is specific to DUI cases and takes years of experience to master. There are courtroom elements, like cross examination regarding field testing and breath and blood testing that don’t come up in other cases. We focus on DUI defense so that our clients can be confident they are getting a top notch defense in every case we take. 

 

Our Awards & Memberships

Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney
Justia 10.0 Lawyer Rating

Your Choice of Attorney(s) Matters ... A lot!

In retaining us to represent you we want you to put your trust and faith in us, our courtroom and negotiation skills and knowledge of the law, that way you and your family could live your daily lives with as little anxiety of your pending charge(s) as possible knowing that you have expanded your family to include the team of lawyers and staff at Barnes & Fersten who will all work for you and your best interest. 

Based on our case results, client satisfaction and internal policies, we believe hiring us not only provides our clients with the best chance at the most favorable result possible on their case, but also the best service and experience that a criminal law firm can provide to its clients. 

We believe that our unique team approach to DUI and criminal defense, from preparation, experience, training and our entire staff working on our clients’ behalves, to how we treat every interaction with our clients, courts and other attorneys delivers the best results. Read more about what sets up apart from other law firms below.

What Our Clients Say

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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:

  1. The charges against you;
  2. Your pretrial release or bond conditions; and
  3. You have the right to be represented by an attorney;

 

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:  

  1. With an ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device installed on your vehicle and SR-22 insurance; or  
  2. Without an ignition interlock device but only to specific designated locations such as work, school, church, AA meetings and treatment programs. This option is only available under certain circumstances, but your lawyer should discuss this option with you if it may apply in your case.  

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.

Meet Our Team

Brandon Fersten

Owner
Brandon provides exceptional legal advice and legal services to our DUI, criminal defense and juvenile defense clients.

Oscar Butler

Associate Attorney
Oscar Butler began with Barnes & Fersten in 2023, following a 4 year career as an ADA

Tim Marohn

Intake Coordinator
As the intake coordinator, Tim is responsible for making sure that the client experience is top-notch.

Lauren Bledsoe

Office Manager
Lauren is the one who most likely answers your call to ensure that your needs are being met.

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DISCLAIMER: Please remember, every case is different and past results cannot predict or guarantee any particular result of your specific case.