Court rules that state lab can't be paid for drunk driving test

In the state of Tennessee, motorists must often undergo a blood or breath test if they have been stopped for driving under the influence. In fact, many charges for drunk driving stem from the results of such tests. However, the state appellate court recently ruled that it is unconstitutional to pay fees to the labs conducting the tests.

Motorists convicted of drunk driving were required to pay $250 to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for a blood alcohol or drug concentration test (BADT). Reportedly, the state raised $3 million in revenue from these tests. Any results from the state lab were admissible as evidence in court.

Twenty drivers accused of driving under the influence challenged this practice as unconstitutional since the lab had a financial motive to find motorists guilty. A special agent with the TBI was fired after a driver was falsely accused of drunk driving. Proponents of the practice argued that the state lab was prevented from cheating since the results could be independently tested. This would prove difficult for defendants with lower incomes.

The appeals court ruled that the current practice did in fact create a possibility for bias among the lab technicians. The judges found that the TBI had a financial interest in obtaining convictions through the BADT. In fact, the ruling stated that employees in the lab felt pressure to convict motorists.

Being charged with drunk driving can be a major disruption to someone's life. If convicted, a person may lose a license, be required to install an ignition interlock, pay fines and/or spend time in jail. To minimize these possible outcomes, it would be beneficial to contact a Tennessee criminal defense attorney. A trusted lawyer will evaluate all evidence used in the case, such as the BADT, to assess whether it was obtained and tested appropriately.

Source:, "Tennessee Court Strikes Down Paying Lab For DUI Convictions", Feb. 8, 2018

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