There are several ways the law considers you to be impaired. You can be drunk, using marijuana, using other controlled substances, etc. Any substance, alcohol or drugs, that impairs your ability to drive can lead to a DWI or DUI charge.
Cops are meant to uphold the law, but they can sometimes overstep and make an illegal stop. A result of this unlawful stop is you facing criminal charges that can alter the course of your life. However, there are ways to reduce these charges and even argue whether the stop was legal. A Knoxville DUI/DWI defense attorney can help.
First things first: what’s the difference between DUI and DWI?
There is one key difference between DUI and DWI. Driving under the influence (DUI) addresses adults operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving while impaired (DWI) addresses minors who operate a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
The penalties can differ for the two charges, too. Fines range from $350 to $10,000, depending on the type of charge. You can spend anywhere from 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days in jail. There are other penalties such as work release, probation, and vehicle forfeiture that you can face. If you are a minor charged with DWI, you could lose your educational scholarships or find yourself facing other losses, too.
What cops look for prior to initiating a DWI or DUI traffic stop in Knoxville
For a DWI or DUI, cops need to have three elements present.
The first element is control of the vehicle. A common misconception is that you cannot be charged with a DWI or DUI if you are not driving. While most cases do involve a person explicitly driving the vehicle, there are cases where you will be charged with a DUI or DWI and the car has not moved. For example, you can be charged if you are intoxicated in your vehicle and the vehicle is on. If your keys are on the dashboard or in your pocket, you can also face charges.
The second element is the location of your vehicle. Are you on a public road or on someone else’s property? A cop can charge you with a DUI or DWI if you are parked in a grocery store parking lot.
The third element is reasonable suspicion you are under the influence. Law enforcement must show that you are impaired in order to charge you, but they only need a reasonable suspicion of impairment to pull you over. Some signs that cops will look for that can mean a driver is impaired are:
- Disobeying the speed limit
- Near misses of objects or other vehicles
- Drifting between lanes
- Frequent braking
What are Knoxville cops allowed to do when it comes to DUI/DWI stops?
Cops can pull you over for a traffic infraction. They can also pull you over at a pre-planned DUI checkpoint. These checkpoints are legal, and you are required to stop. Cops can ask you for pertinent identifying information. You are not required to provide additional information, such as how much you may have consumed. Cops can ask you to exit the vehicle if they suspect you are intoxicated. Police officers can pull you over and investigate you under reasonable suspension. They cannot arrest under reasonable suspicion, however.
What are cops not allowed to do?
Cops are not allowed to search your vehicle without your express consent or a warrant during a traffic stop. This protection is outlined in the Tennessee Constitution. You do not need to give them consent to search your vehicle, as this means you are giving up your privacy rights. A police officer cannot pull you over unless you have violated a law. Cops cannot pull you over without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. If you are pulled over without reason, this can violate your rights.
Tennessee laws surrounding DWI and DUI
There are several regulations to be aware of in Tennessee laws. The first is implied consent. This law means that you are automatically consenting to a breath test if you are arrested for a DUI or DWI. A blood test would require a warrant. If you refuse the test at this point, you can face a one-year license suspension.
Law enforcement cannot pull you over, place you under arrest or search your vehicle unless probable cause is present under the constitution. There are several reasons a cop can pull you over that constitute probable cause, such as if you have an open container in plain view. Another reason for probable cause is a traffic law violation. The violation could be as simple as a rolling stop. This violation will be sufficient for a police officer to pull you over.
How can a Knoxville DUI/DWI defense lawyer challenge a stop?
While a typical legal route is to reduce the charges, other options are available. To have your case dismissed, the court must throw out crucial evidence. A Knoxville DWI/DUI attorney will prove that the stop was illegal and, therefore, the evidence cannot be presented or stand in court.
You need a Knoxville DUI/DWI defense attorney familiar with search and seizure laws, field sobriety tests, traffic law, and how substances work in the human body. A defense lawyer can contest the three elements of the stop, resulting in your case being dismissed. There must be ample proof that one of the elements was not present during your stop and arrest.
Many cases result in convictions because victims do not realize they have options. Many individuals assume that they are automatically guilty since they had a drink that night. That is not always true, and you need to discuss your case with a competent Knoxville DUI/DWI defense attorney from Banks & Jones. Call our office at 865-546-2141, or complete our contact form to discuss your legal options with an experienced Knoxville criminal defense attorney today.
T. Scott knows the importance of interacting with colleagues to stay abreast of developments and changes in the legal world. T. Scott frequently teaches CLE courses on trial strategy, teaching other lawyers his methods for success in the courtroom, and is certified as a Rule 31 Mediator in the Tennessee Supreme Court. He is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, the National Trial Lawyers, and both the Tennessee and American Associations for Justice.
Read more about T.Scott Jones