Knoxville DUI Lawyer | Barnes & Fersten Law Firm (2023)

Knoxville DUI Lawyer | Barnes & Fersten Law Firm (1)


Immediately after a DUI arrest, it’s crucial to follow pretrial release or bond conditions and report to the pretrial office within 72 hours if required. Reviewing and adhering to these conditions is essential to avoid potential revocation of bond or pretrial release. Contacting a DUI attorney as soon as possible can alleviate stress and provide guidance, as well as help amend bond or pretrial conditions, such as ignition interlock devices, scram devices, drug testing, or reporting requirements. An experienced lawyer can potentially remove or amend unfair conditions promptly, even before your first court date. For more insights on navigating the aftermath of a DUI arrest, read our blog post on the topic.

If you’re pulled over for DUI in Tennessee, exercise your right to remain silent, only providing basic information such as your driver’s license, registration, and insurance. Limit conversation and remember that standardized field sobriety tests are voluntary; refusing them may lead to arrest, but can prevent additional evidence against you. Though providing a blood or breath sample can make the state’s case easier, there can be issues with their admissibility and reliability. A shorter interaction with the officer and limited conversation can make it more difficult for the state to prove impairment. Read our blog on this topic for more information.

Tennessee enforces strict DUI laws, even for first-time offenders. A first-time DUI conviction carries a minimum of 48 hours in jail, with credit for time served during arrest, up to a maximum of 11 months and 29 days in jail or on probation. Additional mandatory requirements include a one-year license revocation, fines between $350 and $1,500, court costs, and a 12-hour state-approved DUI education class. Under specific circumstances, mandatory minimum jail time may be enhanced: seven days for a BAC above .20, and an additional 30 days if a child was in the vehicle. Criminal history and other factors can influence the State’s offer and potential jail time. Our DUI attorneys strive to avoid DUI convictions, mandatory jail time, and license revocation through negotiations, reducing charges, or seeking dismissals. If a conviction is unavoidable, we work tirelessly to minimize the client’s risk and penalties. Our blog on this subject goes into more detail.

Most lawyers will charge separately for General Sessions Court and Criminal Court because most DUI cases get resolved prior to a jury trial in Criminal Court. A DUI lawyer may cost anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000 for the General Sessions Court phase of your case.

A DUI case takes a lot of time and resources to defend properly with a clear strategy and end goal that meets the client’s realistic expectations and goals in retaining representation. An attorney cannot take on hundreds of cases for a low fee and expect to be successful in reaching their clients’ goals. That is why Barnes & Fersten limit the number of cases we take on throughout the year to ensure we have the time and resources to focus our attention on you, our potential client, because your needs should not be ignored during the most difficult and stressful time of your life in facing potential jail time and a loss of your driving privileges.

We understand that no one expects to be arrested for DUI or spend a large lump sum of money on retaining an attorney. For this reason, we offer payment plans with a down payment followed by monthly payments. We do not want your financial situation to cause you to be unable to receive the highest level of DUI defense possible with a strategic plan and a cohesive team of attorneys all working together towards the best result possible in your case.

Arraignment: Your first court date is usually an arraignment. The purpose of the arraignment is to ensure that you understand:

  1. The charges against you;
  2. Your pretrial release or bond conditions; and
  3. You have the right to be represented by an attorney;

If you hire an attorney before the arraignment, generally your lawyer will be able to take care of the arraignment for you and you do not have to appear for the initial court date. The reasoning being that you already discussed the charges you are facing and your bond conditions with the attorney you retained. Your attorney and the prosecutor will pick a new court date generally 1 to 2 months from the arraignment to provide us with time to prepare your case to negotiate with the prosecutor about your case.

Maybe. At Barnes & Fersten we do everything we possibly can to prevent you from being convicted of DUI if possible. We will review all the evidence in your case but also learn a lot about you and the effect that a conviction would have on your life to use to your advantage during negotiations with the prosecutor assigned to your case. Although every case is different and no lawyer can ethically promise you a result, we routinely get cases reduced or dismissed where our clients have provided a blood or breath sample with a BAC above a .08% and even as high as a .30%.

There are a variety of ways that we can get a case resolved even with a BAC above a .08% because of a serious legal issue and/or constitutional violation that occurred during the officer’s investigation. Hiring a highly skilled DUI attorney gives you the best chance at avoiding a DUI conviction and the collateral consequences of a conviction that remains on your record for life.

Potentially. The attorneys at Barnes & Fersten will do everything possible to get your DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving, or even dismissed entirely, if possible. Generally, a reckless driving plea offer eliminates a lot of risk and is a favorable resolution in most DUI cases to reduce the risk of proceeding to trial on a case that is strong for our client. A reckless driving is a Class B misdemeanor that in most circumstances will require six (6) months of unsupervised probation (DUI carries 11 months and 29 days), no jailtime, no loss of license, and no fine.

Tennessee is very strict on DUI charges, even for an individual who has no criminal history, but our attorneys have a longstanding history of getting cases reduced to reckless driving or reckless endangerment even in cases where a blood or breath result comes back above a .08%

Step 1: Investigation- Our attorneys will order any relevant bodycam and/or dash camera footage, 911 calls, medical records, and any other significant documents or pieces of evidence that will play a role in our defense strategy for your case.

Step 2: Status Dates- In most counties in East Tennessee, your first (and many times multiple) court dates after the arraignment are known as status dates (or other than trial dates). These dates provide us with the opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutor assigned to your case, convince them to watch (or rewatch) the body camera footage (or specific portions of the video), explain your side of the story of what happened on the night of your arrest, discuss any illegal seizure or arrest issues, and discuss any other suppression issues that will affect what evidence will likely be admissible to be used against you at trial.

Basically, these dates provide us with the opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutor and convince the prosecutor that your case is not as strong as the police officer’s affidavit of complaint makes them believe. It also provides us the opportunity to discredit the officer’s credibility by showing where he overstated things in the affidavit or a warrant simply to make probable cause.

Legal issues such as an illegal arrest, illegal breath or blood draw, or illegal seizure provide us with leverage because it is a way, we can potentially get the case dismissed or prevent a significant piece of the State’s evidence from being introduced at trial. Thus, by our lawyers understanding the nuances of DUI law, we can create leverage to negotiate for the best possible resolution on your behalf.

Step 3: Preliminary Hearings- Most DUI cases get resolved through negotiations prior to a preliminary hearing date. However, we routinely have preliminary hearings for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we have a preliminary hearing to get a case dismissed where we believe the officer lacked probable cause for an arrest or we have a strong illegal suppression issue that a general session judge may agree with us on. Other times, we use a preliminary hearing to get the officer’s sworn testimony to know what his testimony will be at trial, discredit the officer’s credibility based on either overstatement in the affidavit of complaint or a warrant, or the officer’s lack of recall of your arrest from the passage of time and lack of evidence against you, or to get the sworn testimony for a motion in criminal court.

When hiring a DUI attorney, it’s essential to read reviews, blogs, and content about various attorneys to find the best fit for your needs. While all criminal defense attorneys handle DUI cases, not all are well-versed in the nuances of DUI law. Ask questions to understand their legal strategy, how they will fight for you, and whether you’ll have a single attorney or a team defending you. A competent DUI attorney should not only be knowledgeable about the law but also genuinely care about your well-being. The attorneys at Barnes & Fersten are dedicated to staying up-to-date on recent legal decisions and continuously undergo additional training in DUI defense, attending seminars and training sessions across the country to provide clients with the most comprehensive DUI strategies possible. Read our blog on this subject for more information.

In Tennessee, a DUI can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on various factors. A first offense DUI is typically a Class A misdemeanor, with penalties including up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a minimum of 48 hours in jail (7 days if BAC is above .20), and a minimum fine of $350. However, under certain circumstances, a DUI can become a felony. These include a fourth or subsequent DUI offense, vehicular assault resulting from a DUI accident, or reckless endangerment charges related to the DUI incident. Read our blog on this topic for more detail.

Unfortunately, a DUI conviction will remain on your record forever unless the law changes because it is not expungement eligible. Therefore, it is essential you hire a trained DUI attorney to represent you to avoid being convicted of DUI if possible. A reduced charge such as a reckless driving or reckless endangerment is both judicial diversion eligible and expungement eligible and thus, it can be removed from your record. Similarly, if the charges are dismissed, we will file for the charge to be expunged from your record.

The misconception about being charged with DUI, or even implied consent, is that you automatically lose your license or that you will lose your driving privileges at your first court date. This is the furthest thing from the truth. You will only lose your license if you are convicted of DUI. However, our goal is always to fight for our clients to avoid a DUI conviction if possible and therefore the loss of license and mandatory jailtime of a DUI conviction.

If you are convicted of DUI or implied consent, you are most likely eligible for a restricted driver’s license. It is not automatic, but your lawyer can get an Order signed by the judge allowing you to drive either:

  1. With an ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device installed on your vehicle and SR-22 insurance; or
  2. Without an ignition interlock device but only to specific designated locations such as work, school, church, AA meetings and treatment programs. This option is only available under certain circumstances, but your lawyer should discuss this option with you if it may apply in your case.

Out-of-state visitors dealing with a DUI charge in Tennessee face unique challenges, such as potentially higher bond amounts and stringent release conditions. Skilled DUI attorneys can help by advocating for reduced bond amounts, guiding clients through the legal process, and possibly waiving appearances at certain court dates to minimize inconvenience. If a case is resolved through negotiations, attorneys can work with clients to ensure that DUI school or other requirements are completed in their home state, and navigate any license revocation or ignition interlock requirements. The goal is to make the process as manageable as possible under the circumstances. Read our blog on this subject to learn more.

The answer depends on the jurisdiction and strength of your case. The State has the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of DUI by establishing each element of the offense. Our attorneys have received not guilty jury verdicts at trial resulting in the charges against our clients being dismissed.

Similarly, our attorneys have gotten cases dismissed through winning suppression issues during a preliminary hearing or motion hearing, and through establishing a lack of probable cause for an arrest or seizure of our clients’ person through an illegal stop. The facts and circumstances of your case, whether there were any constitutional right violations, lost or destroyed evidence, or a lack of proof of each element of the offense will determine if the charge may be dismissed.

Some jurisdictions in East Tennessee will not reduce a DUI to reckless driving but they will dismiss a case instead if there is a serious legal issue. Our attorneys will ensure you understand the process in the specific jurisdiction of your case whether it is Knox County, Blount County, Loudon County, Anderson County, Sevier County, Union County, Campbell County, or one of the numerous other counties in East Tennessee that we represent our clients fight their DUI charge in.

Even if you are below the age of 21, you may be charged with DUI and suffer from the same consequences of a DUI 1st offense conviction including the mandatory jailtime and loss of license. However, under the underage DWI law, an individual between the ages of 16 and 21 may be convicted of DWI rather than DUI 1st offense.

Underage DWI does not carry any jailtime or probation time-period, but it has a mandatory one-year loss of license if convicted. However, unlike DUI 1st offense, an underage DWI is diversion-eligible meaning that the charge can be dismissed and expunged at the end of following any conditions negotiated with the prosecutor. Through a diversion, an underage DWI would not carry the mandatory loss of license which is extremely helpful because an underage DWI is not eligible for a restricted license.

Unlike a DUI first offense, whereas the legal limit is a BAC of .08%, an underage DWI only requires at BAC of .02% because of underage consumption being prohibited.

As DUI attorneys, we often get asked if sleeping in a car can lead to a DUI conviction. The answer is yes, even if the keys aren’t in the ignition or you’re in the backseat. Tennessee law focuses on “physical control” rather than driving while impaired. The state must prove you were impaired while in control of the vehicle, and the Tennessee Supreme Court has expanded this concept in various cases. Our attorneys understand these nuances and will challenge the state to prove physical control beyond a reasonable doubt. Read our blog on this topic to learn more.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Last Updated: 12/12/2022

Views: 6294

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (74 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-12-23

Address: 4653 O'Kon Hill, Lake Juanstad, AR 65469

Phone: +494124489301

Job: Marketing Representative

Hobby: Reading, Ice skating, Foraging, BASE jumping, Hiking, Skateboarding, Kayaking

Introduction: My name is Cheryll Lueilwitz, I am a sparkling, clean, super, lucky, joyous, outstanding, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.