DUI Lawyer in Cookeville, Tennessee

If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence, you need an attorney that is knowledgeable about the law, the field sobriety tests, and the local judges and district attorneys.

DUI Law

T.C.A. § 55-10-401 forbids driving a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug or intoxicant or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more.  If the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle, the statute forbids driving with a BAC of 0.04% or more.

A person found guilty of violating T.C.A. § 55-10-401 first offense can be sentenced to up to eleven (11) months and twenty-nine (29) days in the county jail.  T.C.A. § 55-10-402.  Also, the person must serve at least 48 hours in jail.  If the person’s BAC is 0.20% or more, the person must serve at least seven (7) days in jail.

Further, the minimum jail times increase with each DUI offense.  Second offense DUI requires a minimum of 45 days in jail.  Third offense DUI requires a minimum 120 days in jail.  Fourth and fifth offense DUI requires 150 days minimum in jail, and the offense is now a felony.  The sixth or subsequent DUI conviction is a C Felony.

The fines also go up with each offense.  T.C.A. § 55-10-403.  A person convicted of first offense DUI is subject to a $350 to $1,500 fine.  Second offense DUI has a $600 to $3,500 fine.  Third offense DUI has a $1,100 to $10,000 fine.  The fourth or subsequent offense DUI has a $15,000 fine.  Also, there is an additional fine if a child is in the car (and likely problems with the Department of Children’s Services, but that’s for another blog).

Also, a person convicted of DUI will lose his license for one year for a first offense, two years for a second offense, six years for a third offense, and eight years for a fourth or subsequent offense.  T.C.A. § 55-10-404.

Field Sobriety Tests

The field sobriety tests are often critical in DUI cases, particularly when there are no blood test results.  Therefore, it is important that your lawyer is knowledgeable about these tests.  Police officers use a number of non-standard and standard tests.  Non-standard tests do not have the same reliability as the standard tests, and yet, many police departments continue to use them.  These nonstandard tests include:

The Finger to Nose Test

In this test, the officer asks the subject to close his eyes and touch the tip of his nose, first with one hand and then with the other hand.  The officer checks to see if the subject touches the tip of his nose and whether the subject sways, opens his eyes, or fails to keep his head tilted back.

The Finger Count Test

The finger count test requires the subject to touch each of his fingers to his thumb while counting.  The officer looks for (1) slurring of numbers, (2) incorrect order of numbers, (3) incorrect matching of numbers with finger to thumb movement, and (4) failure to touch finger to thumb.

The Hand Pat

The subject of a hand pat test has to alternate between patting the top and bottom of his hand while counting.  The officer may ask the subject to speed up or slow down.  DUI clues include (1) failure to turn the hand back and forth, (2) sliding or flopping the hand, (3) hesitating, (4) failing to count properly, and (5) failing to accelerate.

Coin Pickup

In the coin pickup test, the officer drops coins on the ground and asks the subject to pick them up.  While the subject is picking up the coins, the officer is looking for (1) balance, (2) hand/eye coordination, and (3) dexterity.

The Alphabet Test

The alphabet test requires the subject to recite the alphabet from A to Z, sometimes backwards.  The officer looks for (1) pauses, (2) missing and skipped letter(s), and (3) a slow pace.

Reverse Counting

In this test, the officer has the subject to count backwards, up to 25 numbers.  The officer looks for (1) failure to start or end on the designated numbers, (2) repetition of a particular number, and (3) poor pronunciation.

Writing/Drawing/Tracing Tests

In these tests, the officer has the subject write his name, draw shapes, and/or trace a shape.  The officer looks for accuracy and neatness.

The Romberg Test

The subject of the romberg test is required to stand with feet together, eyes open and hands by the side (and sometimes have his head titled back).  Then, the subject closes his eyes and the officer observes for up to a minute.  The officer looks for swaying, asking for additional instructions, opening eyes, and failing to keep the heals together or head tilted back.

In addition to the above nonstandard tests, there are a number of standard tests.  These include:

One-leg Stand Test

In this test, the subject has to balance on one leg and count for thirty seconds.  The officer looks for (1) swaying, (2) using arms for balance, (3) hopping, and (4) putting a leg down too soon.

Walk and Turn Test

The walk and turn test requires the subject to take nine steps heel-to-toe down a straight line, turn, and return in nine-steps.  The officer looks for the following clues: (1) cannot maintain balance, (2) starts too soon, (3) stops while walking, (4) fails to touch heel-to-toe, (5) steps off the line, (6) uses arms to balance, (7) turns improperly, and (8) takes an incorrect number of steps.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

This test requires the subject to follow a slowly moving object, such as a pen, horizontally with his eyes.  The officer looks for (1) lack of smooth pursuit in either eye, (2) sustained nystagmus (uncontrolled movement) in either eye, and (3) nystagmus prior to 45 degrees in either eye.

Local Practice

As seen above, a DUI conviction can lead to the loss of your license for one year or more.  However, often people who lose their license can apply to the judge for a restricted license.  Some judges require you to pay all of your fines and court costs before approving your restricted license.  Other judges allow you to make payments to get your restricted license.  It’s also important to know what the local district attorney want.  In some counties, the assistant district attorneys will let you plea to the 48-hour mandatory minimum jail sentence with 11/29 probation.  In other counties, the assistant district attorneys will want more jail time.  That’s why it is critical not only to know the law and the tests but also the local practice.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Cookeville or in a surrounding town, reach out to a local DUI attorney today.

Gainsboro man arrested for allegedly having sex in a bathroom at the Putnam County Fair

The Herald Citizen reports that the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department has arrested a Gainsboro man for having sex in a bathroom at the Putnam County Fair. Reportedly, a deputy told the couple to come out after observing “the feet of a man and a woman beneath one of the stalls.”   Interestingly, the woman was not named in the warrants for the man’s arrest nor is it stated in the story that she was arrested.

Regardless, the man is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.  Disorderly conduct occurs when:

(a) A person commits an offense who, in a public place and with the intent to cause public annoyance or alarm:

(1) Engages in fighting or in violent or threatening behavior;

(2) Refuses to obey an official order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard or other emergency; or

(3) Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that serves no legitimate purpose.

(b) A person also violates this section who makes unreasonable noise that prevents others from carrying on lawful activities. 

T.C.A. § 39-17-305.  Disorderly conduct is a C misdemeanor carrying up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine.

Based on the fact that the woman wasn’t arrested, I’m guessing the defendant’s disorderly conduct charge is for either “violent behavior,” i.e., recoiling from the deputy, or “threatening behavior,” i.e., repeatedly reach in his pockets.

For fun, let’s assume the State charged him with disorderly conduct for having sex in the fair bathroom.  Did the man want to “cause public annoyance and alarm” or did he have a simpler goal in mind?  Also, could we really say the sex had no legitimate purpose?  As the ACLU loves to remind us, procreation is a fundamental right.  How dare the State tell us that sex is not a legitimate purpose!

Then again, maybe there was “unreasonable noise” that prevented others from “carrying on lawful activities,” such as using the bathroom.  That would be enough to convict him.  However, the witness testimony could get a bit interesting.  “How did the noise affect you?”  “It gave me a severe case of stage fright.”  But wouldn’t loud noises actually help stage fright… This hypothetical has obviously gone on for too long.

Practically speaking, if the guy had just put his clothes on and left the fair, he probably wouldn’t have been charged with anything, at least anything that would stick.

Putnam County jury convicts Cookeville man of aggravated robbery and burglary

A Putnam County jury recently convicted a Cookeville man of aggravated robbery and burglary.  Reportedly, the crimes stemmed from a dispute over property that the defendant left at an apartment he previously rented.  The Herald Citizen reports that the landlord told the new tenant he could use the defendant’s property because, since the defendant still owed rent, the items were no longer the defendant’s.  Allegedly, the defendant and his father came to the apartment one evening, held a screwdriver to the victim’s head, and took the defendant’s property and the victim’s property.

A person commits burglary when he, without the effective consent of the property owner:

(1) Enters a building other than a habitation (or any portion thereof) not open to the public, with the intent to commit a felony, theft or assault;

(2) Remains concealed, with the intent to commit a felony, theft or assault, in a building;

(3) Enters a building and commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft or assault; or

(4) Enters any freight or passenger car, automobile, truck, trailer, boat, airplane or other motor vehicle with intent to commit a felony, theft or assault or commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft or assault.

T.C.A. § 39-14-402.  (1)-(3) are Class D felonies.  (4) is a Class E felony.

An aggravated burglary is a burglary of a habitation.  T.C.A. § 39-14-403.  It is a Class C felony.  A “habitation” means:

(A) Means any structure, including buildings, module units, mobile homes, trailers, and tents, which is designed or adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons;

(B) Includes a self-propelled vehicle that is designed or adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons and is actually occupied at the time of initial entry by the defendant; and

(C) Includes each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle and each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle;

T.C.A. § 39-14-401.

Lawyer in Cookeville, TN

As an attorney that practices in Cookeville, Tennessee, it’s important to know about the local court system.  Here is useful information about the courts in Putnam County, Tennessee.

The Criminal Court Judges are The Honorable David Patterson and The Honorable Gary McKenzie.  Judge Patterson has served the 13th Judicial District as judge for eleven years.  Previously, he was an Assistant District Attorney for sixteen years.  Judge McKenzie was elected to the bench in 2014.  Before joining the bench, he served as a Deputy District Attorney and as a JAG Officer.  Their contact information is:

The Honorable David Patterson
321 East Spring Street, Suite 305
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 525-1699 (P)

The Honorable Gary McKenzie
321 East Spring Street, Suite 303
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 528-1114 (P)

The Circuit Court Judges are The Honorable Amy Hollars and The Honorable Jonathan Young.  Governor Phil Bredesen appointed Judge Hollars to the bench in 2009.  As an undergraduate, she graduated first in her class from the University of the South.  As a law student, she was Order of the Coif at the University of Tennessee College of Law.  Judge Young was elected in 2014.  Before joining the bench, he was a partner at Cameron and Young.  Their contact information is:

The Honorable Amy Hollars
1010 East Main Street
P.O. Box 68
Livingston, TN 38570
(931) 823-6453 (P)

The Honorable Jonathan Lee Young
321 East Spring Street, Suite 302
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 526-6692 (P)

The Chancellor is The Honorable Ron Thurman.  Chancellor Thurman was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2014.  Before serving on the bench, he practiced law for 23 years in private practice.  His contact information is:

The Honorable Ronald Thurman
321 East Spring Street, Suite 307
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 526-2105 (P)

The General Sessions Judges are The Honorable John Hudson and The Honorable Steve Qualls.  Both judges had distinguished careers before joining the bench.  Before the people of Putnam County elected Judge Hudson, he served as Regional Counsel for the Tennessee Department of Human Services.  Similarly, Judge Qualls was a practicing attorney for eighteen years and a municipal judge for seven years before being elected as general sessions judge.   Their contact information is:

The Honorable John Hudson
421 East Spring Street, Room C-07
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 528-5541

The Honorable Steven D. Qualls
421 East Spring Street, Room C-07
Cookeville, TN 38501
(931) 528-5541

The District Attorney is General Bryant Dunaway.  General Dunaway is a former police officer that has been serving in his current position since 2014.  The Assistant District Attorneys in Putnam County are Generals Beth Willis, Victor Gernt, and James Hargis.  Their office number is (931) 528-5015 and their office is located at:

District Attorney’s Office
1519-A East Spring Street
Cookeville, TN 38506

The Public Defender is Craig Fickling.  Mr. Fickling has more than twenty-five years of legal experience.  His office number is (931) 526-9141 and his office is located at:

Public Defender’s Office
1420 Neal Street, Suite 202
Cookeville, TN 38501

The Circuit Court Clerk is Marcia Borys.  Her office number is (931) 528-1508 and her office is located at:

421 East Spring Street
Room 1C, Suite 49A
Cookeville, TN 38501

Cookeville man charged with 1st Degree Murder

This past Thursday, Ricky N. Murphy was shot to death on Scenic Drive in Cookeville, Tennessee.  The next day, the Cookeville Police Department arrested a 28-year-old man and charged him with first-degree-murder.  Allegedly, an argument between the two men escalated into a physical altercation and, ultimately, murder.  The defendant has a $3,000,000 bond.

First degree murder is a premeditated and intentional killing of another.  T.C.A. § 39-13-202.  According to the statute, “Premeditation means that the intent to kill must have been formed prior to the act itself.  It is not necessary that the purpose to kill preexist in the mind of the accused for any definite period of time.  The mental state of the accused at the time the accused allegedly decided to kill must be carefully considered in order to determine whether the accused was sufficiently free from excitement and passion as to be capable of premeditation.”

A jury is allowed to infer premeditation from the manner and circumstances of the killing.  State v. Bland, 958 S.W.2d 651, 660 (Tenn. 1997).  Circumstances that support a finding of premeditation include “declarations by the defendant of an intent to kill, evidence of procurement of a weapon, the use of a deadly upon an unarmed victim, the particular cruelty of the killing, infliction of multiple wounds, preparation before the killing for concealment of the crime, destruction or secretion of evidence of the murder, and calmness immediately after the killing.”  State v. Nichols, 24 S.W.3d 297, 302 (Tenn. 2000).  Also, the jury may infer premeditation from the “[e]stablishment of a motive for the killing.”  State v. Leach, 148 S.W.3d 42, 54 (Tenn. 2004).

If convicted, the defendant will be sentenced to:

(1) Death;

(2) Imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole; or

(3) Imprisonment for life.

T.C.A. § 39-13-202(c).

When facing serious charges like this, it is critical to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.  Small details can determine life or death.