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Court Rules Tennessee Bureau of Investigation DUI Conviction Fee Is Unconstitutional


Did you know that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation earns $250 for every DUI conviction that was obtained using blood or breath tests? A section of the Tennessee Code states that a $250 fee be paid to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation toxicology unit.

The $250 charge is added to the defendant's court fees, but there is no charge if the person is found not guilty.

That stands to change, however, after an appeals court in Tennessee ruled that such a transaction was unconstitutional.

How The Fee Affects DUI Cases

The decision came from Knoxville’s court of criminal appeals after a case in which a woman “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.”

It appears that the woman’s arguments insinuate that the Tennessee Bureau Investigation scientists may be tampering with test results in an attempt to get convictions and bring more money into the office. The money from the fees is supposed to be used for “equipment and training”.

According to a story in the Tennessean, the appeals court stated, “While we acknowledge that TBI forensic scientists could lose their jobs if they falsify test results and these falsifications are discovered, we also recognize that forensic scientists would most certainly lose their jobs if funding for their positions disappears, a result of which these forensic scientists are no doubt well aware. Because the fee system at issue in this case calls into question the trustworthiness of the TBI forensic scientists’ test results, it violates due process."

The state believes that this perceived bias could be eliminated by introducing independent testing. However, the Tennessean reported that the appeals court argued against this solution because “independent testing is not an adequate safeguard because it impermissibly shifts the burden of proof from the State to the defense. Because the State has the duty to pursue truth and justice, it has the obligation to provide an accurate, unbiased BAC result, not a result that is deemed correct until disproved by the defendant."

What Does The Future Hold?

The decision to deem this fee unconstitutional could severely impact future DUI cases in the state of Tennessee. However, other pieces of evidence in DUI cases will not be affected by this new ruling.

Is this decision a win for DUI defendants or could it have unforeseen consequences down the line?

Contact Us

Getting charged with a DUI can be very overwhelming. Many people believe that if they have been arrested for a DUI, they simply have to expect the worse. That isn’t the case.

If you’re dealing with a DUI, contact Nash Law, PLLC today at 615-628-7555 to learn about your rights.

This article was written by the author on behalf of Nash Law, PLLC.