If you’re anything like us, you’ve been watching the case about DUI testing fees move through the courts. In late August of this year, the Tennessee Supreme Court has issued its final ruling, and it appears these $250 testing fees are here to stay for people convicted of drunk driving.
Why was the TBI charging and collecting fees for DUI testing?
Back in 2008, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) was facing major budget cuts and had only two options: charge fees for testing at its forensic facilities or shut down some facilities. TBI officials deemed the option of shutting down TBI crime laboratories unacceptable, and therefore chose the option of charging forensic test fees. These fees were then passed along to the person charged with driving under the influence.
However, in 2012, a DUI defendant in the Chattanooga area disagreed with the TBI’s decision, and asserted that the TBI charging and collecting fees for having blood alcohol content (BAC) and similar tests done at its facilities infringes on her rights to due process and to a fair trial. As a result, she questioned whether such fees and were constitutional.
So began a long, winding path through the court systems.
The initial ruling
The lower court ruled that the TBI charging and collecting fees for having BAC and similar tests done at its laboratories is constitutional. It ruled that such fees and the collection thereof do not infringe on people’s rights to due process and to a fair trial.
The appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision, and ruled that such fees and the collection thereof are unconstitutional. The court ruled that the fees do, indeed, infringe on people’s rights to due process and to a fair trial.
The Tennessee Supreme Court
The Tennessee Supreme Court, the highest court in the state of Tennessee, reversed the appellate court’s ruling. It determined that TBI scientists have no personal or financial incentive to produce specific test results, and “that any financial incentive created by the law is far too remote to constitute a possible temptation for TBI forensic agents to falsify test results and generate fees.” Plus, TBI scientists lack any legal authority to arrest suspects, prosecute suspects, or acquire evidence and noted that they merely run tests.
In short, the fees are here to stay.
What does the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling mean?
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruling means two things: One, the TBI has more funding. After all, “The fees produced $1.6 million for the TBI from 2009 to 2012, according to court documents. From 2005 to 2016, the TBI collected more than $22 million from these fees, according to documents.” Two, DUI cases will remain expensive and time-consuming. These fees are just a small part of the overall cost associated with a DUI conviction, so give us a call if you’re facing DUI charges.
If you’ve been charged with DUI, you need aggressive representation. If you, a friend, or a loved one is in trouble with the law, contact the Knoxville criminal defense attorneys at Banks and Jones, or call (865) 407-2122. We fight for the rights of the accused throughout Tennessee.