The DUI charges against a Warren County woman were dismissed when the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the trial court that the missing evidence would prevent her from receiving a fair trial. The evidence in question was the video from the police vehicle that pulled her over for an improper lane change. According to the prosecution, the video recorded the initial stop, the failed sobriety test and the woman's subsequent arrest for DUI.
In the preliminary hearing, the officer testified that the woman had swerved into his lane of traffic from the center lane. In conversation after the initial traffic stop, the woman reportedly told the police officer that she had taken some medication earlier that day. The officer then stated that he tried to conduct several field sobriety tests with the woman and finally placed her under arrest. However, when the defense sought to view the potential evidence, it was revealed that authorities could not locate the video.
The defense then submitted a motion to dismiss the charges based on a precedent set in a 1999 case. That matter also questioned whether a defendant can receive a fair trial despite missing evidence. In the current case, the court stated that it was the government's obligation to maintain control of evidence it intends to use to prove the guilt of a defendant. The trial judge found that the testimony of the officer by itself was insufficient to prove guilt.
Tennessee DUI laws are strict, and they are designed to ensure the safety of all. Nevertheless, it is obviously important to protect the rights of those who are suspected of driving under the influence. An individual who has been charged with DUI as the result of a failed sobriety test has the right to review relevant evidence. Knowing the rules regarding the chain of custody of evidentiary materials is very helpful when facing DUI charges based on tests administered by law enforcement.
Chattanoogan.com, "State Supreme Court Upholds Dismissal Of DUI Charges," Aug. 16, 2013