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May 2015 Archives

General Inquiries Are Permissible in Any Traffic Stop

Traffic stops are a common kind of encounter between a police officer and a citizen. While the legality of the initial stop must be considered, there have been a number of Tennessee cases in recent years dealing with the permissible scope of an investigation following a lawful stop. Even after a lawful stop, a citizen may not be detained unreasonably. In the recent Court of Criminal Appeals case of State v. Bourrage, M2014-01194-VVA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 5-26-2015), the Court noted that requests for driver's licenses and registration documents, as well as "inquiries concerning travel plans and vehicle ownership, computer checks, and the issuance of citations are investigative methods or activities consistent with the lawful scope of any traffic stop."

Fight to protect your rights after a drunk driving arrest

If you feel overwhelmed and frightened after a DUI arrest, you are not alone. It is normal to feel daunted by the Tennessee legal system and the potential consequences that can come from a criminal conviction. Whether this is your first drunk driving charge or you have a history of DUI arrests, it is important to protect your rights at every stage of the process. 

Woman charged with vehicular homicide after drunk driving crash

A Tennessee woman is in serious trouble with the law the after causing an accident that eventually claimed the life of a teenage boy. The boy died from his injuries just one day after he was supposed to graduate from high school. The suspected drunk driver also had a small child in the car with her at the time of the crash and was officially charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and endangerment of a child. 

Expert Testimony Not Admissible to Establish "Heat of Passion"

Expert testimony may be used in criminal trials in Tennessee when it can substantially assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact at issue. It is not uncommon for there to be evidentiary disputes about whether a particular expert's testimony on a particular subject does that. A trial court judge, guided by legal precedent, must ultimately determine whether particular expert testimony will be admissible. Then the trier of fact (a jury in most criminal trials) must determine how much weight to afford that evidence. In Tennessee criminal trials for first degree premeditated murder, the defense may present expert testimony regarding the defendant's mental state only if the expert testimony can conclude that the defendant 1) suffered from a specific mental disease or defect; and 2) was unable to form premeditation as a result of that mental disease or defect. If the proffered expert(s) on the defendant's mental state does not reach both these conclusions, the testimony will be inadmissible. Additionally, the expert may not testify on the question of whether he or she believes the defendant experienced "sufficient provocation" or acted in the "heat of passion," as those determinations are not scientific or medical conclusions.

Expert Testimony Not Admissible to Establish "Heat of Passion"

Expert testimony may be used in criminal trials in Tennessee when it can substantially assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact at issue. It is not uncommon for there to be evidentiary disputes about whether a particular expert's testimony on a particular subject does that. A trial court judge, guided by legal precedent, must ultimately determine whether particular expert testimony will be admissible. Then the trier of fact (a jury in most criminal trials) must determine how much weight to afford that evidence. In Tennessee criminal trials for first degree premeditated murder, the defense may present expert testimony regarding the defendant's mental state only if the expert testimony can conclude that the defendant 1) suffered from a specific mental disease or defect; and 2) was unable to form premeditation as a result of that mental disease or defect. If the proffered expert(s) on the defendant's mental state does not reach both these conclusions, the testimony will be inadmissible. Additionally, the expert may not testify on the question of whether he or she believes the defendant experienced "sufficient provocation" or acted in the "heat of passion," as those determinations are not scientific or medical conclusions.

Woman has accident at a school, charged with drunk driving

After crashing in a Knoxville school's parking lot, a woman was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. At the time of the accident, the woman was driving with two young children in her car, ages 7 and 10. The children were released into the custody of the school after their mother was arrested for drunk driving. 

"Mandatory Blood Draw" Still Requires Warrant or Exception

A blood draw for testing its alcohol content is still considered a search under existing federal and state law. Fourth Amendment rights and privacy concerns apply. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, in State v. Brown, W2014-00162-CCA-R9-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 4-30-2015), has again (consistent with prior appellate opinions) reviewed Tennessee's statutory provisions requiring a blood draw under certain circumstances and determined they not dispense with the constitutional warrant requirement (and are therefore not unconstitutional). Also like prior decisions, this particular opinion did not address the question of whether the mandatory blood draw provisions render 'implied consent' not revokable.

The importance of a lawyer when facing drunk driving charges

After an arrest for drunk driving, Tennessee defendants may assume that they can confront these charges and navigate the legal system on their own. However, securing legal counsel as soon as possible after a drunk driving arrest will be very beneficial. Even a first-time DUI charge can result in serious penalties if convicted.

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