Appeals Court Ruling Calls Tennessee DUI Conviction 'Fee System' Unconstitutional - Articles

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Posted by: Jarod Word on Feb 8, 2018

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that a state law giving the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation a $250 fee in DUI convictions is unconstitutional. The ruling is a result of a Hamilton County DUI case of a woman who argued her blood test should be suppressed because the fee system violated her right to a fair trial and gave the TBI a financial motivation to get convictions. The case was consolidated with more than 20 others of defendants who gave blood or breath samples to authorities.

The appeals court said in the 28-page ruling, "Based on the record before us, the TBI, and specifically, the forensic science division is dependent on these BADT (blood alcohol or drug concentration test) fees. Given the upward trend in BADT collections for each successive year, we believe that the TBI will become increasingly reliant on these fees in the future, which only serves to heighten the potential for bias among TBI forensic scientists. The fee system in TCA § 55-10-413(f) also closely resembles cases in which expert witnesses or attorneys have been disqualified for conflicts of interest."

The Tennessee Attorney General's Office is reviewing the decision, which could be appealed, according to the Tennessean. The income from the fee has been increasing and now is above $3 million per year, the paper reports.