Tennessee DUI Process – Understanding the DUI Legal Process in TN
Being arrested can be a very scary and intimidating experience for someone. In many cases, individuals charged with DUI are not hardened criminals, but an average person that made a very bad decision. Understanding the Tennessee DUI process can make the experience less intimidating if it were ever to happen to you.
DUI Procedure in Tennessee
The first step in the process is obviously an officer stopping you and charging you with a DUI. Once that happens, you will more than likely be taken to the local county sheriff’s department. After processing, the case will be brought in front of a judicial officer. The officer (or magistrate) will listen to the officer’s testimony and make his or her decision about the arrest warrant. If the warrant is issued, bail is also decided at this point (or you may be held without bail, depending upon the circumstances of the arrest).
If bail has been set, it will need to be paid in order to be released. The bail is the court’s guarantee that you will show up when required to do so. If you have the funds, or have someone that can post bail, you can pay it and will be released at that point. If you do not have the funds, you can also contact a local bail bondsman.
Upon your release, you will be assigned a court date (usually within a couple of weeks). The first purpose of this hearing is to establish the status of your legal representation. If you are unable to afford your own attorney, you can see if you qualify for a free public defender. The second purpose is to set your actual trial date. You do not have to worry about any sentencing during this appearance.
The next time you in court will be much more serious; this is where the actual trial will begin. Firstly, the arresting officer is present to testify if needed. It is at this time that you and your attorney will have had to make a decision as to how you are going to proceed with the case. At this time, you will also be informed of your rights based on how you are pleading. Your choices are:
- Plead guilty
- Plea bargain agreement (Tennessee is very tough on DUI drivers, so this may be difficult)
- Waive preliminary hearing so you can view videotape evidence supplied by the arresting officers video system
- Have preliminary hearing
If you plan to fight the case, your attorney can use the preliminary hearing to question the arresting officer. This will give your attorney a better idea of the actual case the State has against you. In all likelihood, your attorney will ask for a continuance and the case will be moved to circuit court (general court presents less of an opportunity for the attorney discovery privileges).
Once the case is moved to circuit court, you will be arraigned. Once this has been done, your attorney can file discovery motions, which is how you will finally get to see the videotape evidence if you have not waived your preliminary hearing. In addition to the videotape, your attorney will likely request copies of any test results, statements, and all other information on which the prosecution is basing its case.
It is at this time you will also receive a scheduling order for two discussion dates and a plea date. The first discussion date ensures that the discovery process is complete. The second date is for review of the case and for the attorney to file any motions. This is a critical stage because if your attorney wants to file a motion to dismiss the traffic stop, it will need to be done at this time. This decision will be based on all information reviewed during the discovery process. The final date is the plea date. If the case is not being dismissed or pled out, the case will be set for trial.
How to Challenge DUI Arrest Procedure in Tennessee
During the DUI legal process in Tennessee, you and your attorney may decide to fight the actual arrest. There are several ways to go about this. Some signs the officers use to decide if you are intoxicated or not can be related to other conditions. Your attorney can give you more input, but we have put together a basic list of challenges for you to review:
- Bloodshot eyes – many people have bloodshot eyes when they are intoxicated, but this is also a sign of being overtired or excessive exposure to smoke, to name just a couple.
- Erratic driving – what were the road conditions that day? Perhaps you swerved to miss a pothole or an animal in the road. Maybe you were distracted by something else. A combination of bad weather and worn tires may have also caused this.
- Signs of alcohol – if an officer pulls you over and smells alcohol on your breathe, you are probably being arrested. However, just one drink does not mean you are impaired. You may have even had two or three drinks but were not still considered intoxicated by law when you were pulled over.
- Slurred speech – other than intoxication, there are a variety of reasons why you could slur your speech. Did you just have a dental procedure? Are you taking medication or do you have an actual condition that causes you to talk in this manner?
- Failed road tests – let’s face it, most of these road tests are impossible for even a sober person to complete. Can you say the alphabet backwards? Tests such as walking a straight line can also challenge people with certain conditions, such as vertigo, or be affected by the weather.
The DUI legal process in Tennessee can seem daunting to someone arrested for DUI, but it is not impossible to overcome. Do research on sites like DUIRights.com to understand the exact process. In addition, you should have an experienced attorney review your case to offer an honest assessment and to offer his or her advice on how you should proceed.