FERRIER FILES: Court ruling could jeopardize DUI cases across Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
There are so many DUIs in Williamson County that it's a full time job for one of the assistant district attorneys.
Jamie Pulido, DUI special prosecutor of Williamson County, has nine cases on a slow day. He averages between 15 and 25 cases a week and some of them are very sreious.
Things for Pulido and many other county courts are not business as usual after the Tennessee Criminal Court Of Appeals ruled the TBI blood alcohol tests are unconstitutional.
The court made this decision because the TBI gets $250 for every conviction in every case in the state of Tennessee. The court says the TBI is policing for profit, and that is unconstitutional.
“ It was shocking because of the impact of one hearing," Pulido said. "The number I have heard is that in middle Tennessee alone, over 17,000 lab results are affected. That’s just in one stretch of land."
Defense Attorney David Raybin says you can't exaggerate the impact of this ruling.
“This DUI blood test ruling is a thermonuclear device in all DUI prosecutions in the entire state," Raybin said. "Put them all on hold until the Supreme Court decides if this is admissible or not because of the see problem."
The majority of DUI cases are base don blood alcohol results, and many times the worst cases need this evidence the most.
“ Let’s say we have an accident and the person under the influence crashes and is hurt and so is his victim, " Pulido said. "What we have is the blood work and nothing else. If we can’t use the results, the case crumbles."
The Tennessee Supreme Court is rushing to rule on this issue. That's a big deal because their ruling will final. The court of appeals ruling is not binding but is merely a strong suggestion.
Some prospectors are not waiting. They are going forward with putting drunk drivers behind bars.
“Attacking what we feel might not be the strongest points of it, to try to continue prosecuting DUIs, vehicular assaults, vehicular homicides and drug cases," Pulido said. "These are all impacted by the Decosimo opinion, but the criminal court of appeals' rulings are not binding."
Even today, most of the cases are relying heavily on blood alcohol tests.
So what do you do? Inaction and there will be no justice. Prosecute and it might be undone in the future.
“You have great uncertainly in all the trial courts in in Tennessee," David Raybin said. "We are talking about hundreds of potential cases are sort of in standby while this goes to the Supreme Court. The TBI needs to go to the legislature and get funding for these tests. If you say you want safe streets, then pay for it and get the TBI out of this unconstitutional position."
The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear arguments May 31. That is almost an emergency response from the high court because the stakes are so high.