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Press Releases

THP Announces Labor Day ‘No Refusal’ DUI Enforcement

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; August 24, 2014:

NASHVILLE— The Tennessee Highway Patrol will conduct a “No Refusal” enforcement campaign during this year’s Labor Day holiday period. This special enforcement effort will begin at midnight on Friday, August 29 and conclude at 11:59 p.m. on Monday September 1.

The “No Refusal” legislation allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers.

“Law enforcement officials have another tool to utilize to deter impaired driving and reduce fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways by conducting ‘No Refusal’ enforcements,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. “We have chosen to implement this enforcement in each of the eight highway patrol districts, and with the help of various local law enforcement agencies across the state. The ultimate goal is remove drunk drivers from our roadways and to save lives,” he added.

State troopers will conduct “No Refusal” enforcement in the following counties: Union (Knoxville District); Hamilton and Marion (Chattanooga District); Montgomery (Nashville District); Shelby (Memphis District); Hawkins (Fall Branch District); Smith (Cookeville); Maury (Lawrenceburg); and Hardin County (Jackson District).

In addition to “No Refusal” enforcement, highway patrol personnel will also conduct driver’s license, sobriety and seat belt checkpoints, as well as saturation patrols and bar and tavern checks.

“Our district captains have created enforcement plans specific to their regions. So, there will be a variety of specialized enforcement during Labor Day, including distracted driving, commercial vehicle safety, and Move Over enforcement, for example. However, the priority is always on impaired driving and seat belt enforcement,” Trott said.

During the 2013 Labor Day holiday, 16 people were killed in 15 fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways. That’s up from the 13 vehicular fatalities in 2012. Last year, alcohol was involved in six (38%) of the fatal incidents, and six of the ten (60%) vehicle occupants killed were not wearing safety restraints. Four motorcyclists, one all-terrain vehicle rider and one pedestrian were also killed.

Preliminary figures indicate there have been 3,981 crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers in Tennessee from January 1 through August 15, 2014. That is 339 fewer (7.8% decrease) than the 4,320 crashes during those same dates in 2013.

Seat belt usage is another contributing factor in crashes across the state. To date this year, 50 percent of vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not wearing safety restraints.

Colonel Trott also noted the number of DUI arrests made by State Troopers in 2014. Troopers have arrested 5,310 individuals for impaired driving from January 1 through August 15, 2014. In 2013, the number of arrests made during that time was 3,973. That’s a 34 percent increase during the same dates.

A list of the scheduled “No Refusal” and Labor Day enforcement checkpoints are HERE.

A 2013 Labor Day holiday statistical sheet is HERE.

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Press Releases

THP Arrested 96 for New Year’s DUI, Drew Blood from 2 Under ‘No Refusal’

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; January 3, 2012:

NASHVILLE —The Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested 96 individuals on suspicion of impaired driving in counties participating in the “No Refusal” enforcement effort over the New Year’s holiday period. The holiday period ran from 6 p.m., Friday, December 28 through midnight on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. Two suspects refused to take a breathalyzer test, resulting in warrants for a blood sample under the “No Refusal” law.

The “No Refusal” law allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. The goal is to deter impaired driving and reduce fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways.

Sixteen counties, two from each of the eight THP Districts, participated in this special DUI enforcement, including Knox and Sevier (Knoxville District); Hamilton and Marion (Chattanooga District); Robertson and Wilson (Nashville District); Crockett and Tipton (Memphis District); Carter and Greene (Fall Branch District); Cumberland and Overton (Cookeville District); Bedford and Maury (Lawrenceburg District); and Chester and Carroll (Jackson District).

Preliminary reports indicate that three people were killed in three separate crashes in participating “No Refusal” areas, specifically Hamilton, Knox and Wilson counties. None of those crashes was alcohol-related.

Overall, seven people were killed in five total crashes during the New Year’s Eve period, compared to five vehicular fatalities during last year’s period. Two of the vehicle occupants were not wearing seat belts. Additionally, two people killed were pedestrians.

The results for the 16-county “No Refusal” enforcement effort are listed below.

 

Knox County

DUI arrests: 8

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Sevier County

DUI arrests: 1

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Hamilton County

DUI Arrests: 31

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 1

 

Marion County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Robertson County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Wilson County

DUI Arrests: 5

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Crockett County

DUI Arrests: 5

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 1

 

Tipton County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Carter County 

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Greene County

DUI Arrests: 10

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Cumberland County

DUI Arrests: 3

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Overton County

DUI Arrests: 5

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Bedford County

DUI Arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Maury County

DUI Arrests: 7

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Carroll County

DUI Arrests: 1

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

 

Chester County

DUI Arrests: 0

Refusal to take BAC test/

Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

Categories
Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Gibbons: State Panel Wants To ‘Streamline’ DUI Law

Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons says the state is getting closer to overhauling the state’s DUI statutes, but he doubts the first round of changes will add any new teeth to the laws.

Gibbons said down the line he and a committee of state and local officials may consider recommending changes in the law like mandatory rehab for people convicted of DUI. But he said it was too soon whether the group would float that plan with the Legislature next year.

“Right now, our DUI law is 58 pages long. That’s compared to an 18-page first-degree murder death penalty statute. So, it’s very complicated,” he told reporters Tuesday at a law enforcement conference in Nashville.

The priority, he said, is to “streamline” the current DUI laws to make them easier for defense lawyers, district attorneys and the public to understand.

That revision could surface as early as the 2013 legislative session, although Gibbons gave no promises the language would be ready by then. Any significant additions to the policy might not be ready for another year after that, Gibbons said.

The revisions are part of a multi-year public safety action plan Gibbons has spearheaded as chairman of the Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group. The group is made up of Department of Safety attorneys, representatives from the District Attorneys Generals Conference, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

DUI enforcement is one of Gibbons’ priorities as commissioner. Gibbons, a former Memphis district attorney and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate, bragged to the Southeastern Colonel’s Conference in Nashville Tuesday about the state’s beefed up DUI enforcement since he took office.

According to the department, trooper arrests of DUI suspects are up 29 percent, or 800 arrests, from this time last year. By mid-August of 2011, troopers had made 2,757 arrests for impaired driving, compared to 3,557 the same time this year.

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Environment and Natural Resources Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Law Enforcement Repeats Holiday ‘No Refusal’ Enforcement

State troopers are using holidays to exercise new powers to demand that suspected drunk drivers give up a vial of their blood against their will.

State officials say they forced nine people who refused breath tests during Department of Safety holiday weekend crackdowns to submit to blood tests over the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends. A new law gives police the tools to obtain a warrant to require a blood test.

But officials also say they would not be surprised if the law’s constitutionality were to be tested in court.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if someone challenges it. Having said that, I’m pretty comfortable that the law will be upheld,” said Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons.

“Is any search warrant invasive? I guess you could argue that, but under our law there is a procedure to seek a search warrant. We have to persuade a judge that there is probable cause that a person is driving under the influence, and if that judge agrees, then we obtain a search warrant,” he told TNReport.

Drivers suspected of drunk driving can refuse to submit to a breath test. Rep. Curry Todd was recently indicted for refusing following his DUI arrest in 2011.

Refusal comes at a cost. Those drivers lose most of their driving rights for a year.

But on holiday weekends when the state lines up judges and nurses or other medical professionals to be onsite with troopers, the refusal option is rendered moot. The judges can issue search warrants on the spot, and the medical professionals can draw the blood.

One driver was forced to submit to a blood test over the Labor Day weekend in Sullivan County, state Safety Department officials say. Over July 4, the number was eight.

Not known is how many drivers submitted to a breath test without protest because they were aware of the new law.

The department declined to release the outcomes of those blood tests, saying the information would be considered evidence in pending criminal cases.

The no-refusal law won narrow approval in the state House of Representatives this year despite hesitance from lawmakers like House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who at the time said, “It concerns a lot of people when the government holds people down and takes bodily fluids out. I think you saw that in the close vote today.”

Others in the Legislature say the law is a tool to keep streets safe from intoxicated drivers.

“You’re driving around like a cocked gun, and nothing good can ever come from that,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “I do agree with the policy, and it’ll be up to some court or some ACLU attorney, I suppose, to decide if this is some invasion of privacy.”

Tennessee’s ACLU chapter says it is so far not engaged in any fights over the no-refusal policy.

David Raybin, a criminal defense lawyer in Nashville, says there’s nothing constitutionally suspect about requiring DUI suspects to fork over their blood.

”If they have probable cause to arrest you for a DUI, they have probable cause to take your blood,” he said. “There’s no constitutional problem with doing that because of the emergency of the situation because the alcohol content goes away so quickly.”

Categories
Press Releases

State Releases Labor Day Weekend ‘No Refusal’ DUI Results

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; Sept. 4, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security announced Tuesday that the Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated zero alcohol-related fatal accidents in the 16 counties chosen for “No Refusal” DUI enforcement efforts over the Labor Day holiday period. Additionally, just one DUI suspect detained by the THP refused to take a blood alcohol level test in these enforcement counties and one search warrant was obtained for a blood sample under the new “No Refusal” law. The enforcement effort was coordinated by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, along with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO), local district attorneys, and various local and state law enforcement agencies.

“We believe awareness of the ‘No Refusal’ enforcement effort really served to deter people from getting behind the wheel while impaired. That is our main goal with this new law, to prevent tragedies caused by drinking and driving,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.

The “No Refusal” enforcement period started at 6 p.m., Friday, August 31 and ran through 11:59 p.m., Monday, September 3. This special DUI enforcement was effective in selected counties: Roane and Campbell (Knoxville District); McMinn and Meigs (Chattanooga District); Robertson and Rutherford (Nashville District); Shelby and Tipton (Memphis District); Jefferson and Sullivan (Fall Branch District); Cumberland and Warren (Cookeville District); Bedford and Lincoln (Lawrenceburg District); and Chester and Weakley (Jackson District). State and local officials conducted sobriety and driver license checkpoints, as well as saturation patrols, in those counties as well as in other parts of the state.

The “No Refusal” law, enacted this year by the General Assembly, allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. Previously, a suspected impaired driver could refuse a blood alcohol content test and face charges of violating the implied consent law. This new law enables law enforcement to legally obtain blood samples by working with prosecutors and judges throughout the state during the warrant acquisition process.

The results for the “No Refusal” Tennessee Highway Patrol enforcement effort in each of the 16 counties are listed below:

Roane County
DUI Arrests: 2
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Campbell County
DUI Arrests: 12
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

McMinn County
DUI Arrests: 18
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Meigs County
DUI Arrests: 3
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Robertson County
DUI Arrests: 1
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Rutherford County
DUI Arrests: 21
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Shelby County
DUI Arrests: 2
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Tipton County
DUI Arrests: 1
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Jefferson County
DUI Arrests: 1
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Sullivan County
DUI Arrests: 3
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 1

Cumberland County
DUI Arrests: 2
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Warren County
DUI Arrests: 2
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Bedford County
DUI Arrests: 2
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Lincoln County
DUI Arrests: 4
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Chester County
DUI Arrests: 0
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Weakley County
DUI Arrests: 0
Refusal to take BAC test/
Search warrants obtained for blood samples 0

Categories
Press Releases

State Announces 2nd Round of ‘No Refusal’ Enforcement for Labor Day

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; August 30, 2012: 

NASHVILLE— Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott today announced the department’s second “No Refusal” enforcement campaign at a joint press conference with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Nashville.

The “No Refusal” enforcement effort, beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, August 31 and concluding at midnight on Monday, September 3, will also coincide with the Labor Day holiday weekend. “No Refusal” is the latest enforcement strategy aimed at deterring impaired driving and reducing fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways. The new law, passed this year by the General Assembly, allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers.

“There were five counties that participated in the first ‘No Refusal’ campaign, and zero fatalities were reported in those counties during the Fourth of July, 126-hour enforcement. Our congratulations go out to the law enforcement, prosecutors and judges that participated in the effort,” Commissioner Gibbons said. “We are proud to again partner with local and state officials and highway safety advocates, including the Governor’s Highway Safety Office and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in an expanded 16-county ‘No Refusal’ weekend,” Commissioner Gibbons added.

This targeted enforcement will focus on 16 counties where impaired driving and fatal crashes have increased in 2012. Two counties from each of the eight THP Districts will participate, including Roane and Campbell (Knoxville District); McMinn and Meigs (Chattanooga District); Robertson and Rutherford (Nashville District); Shelby and Tipton (Memphis District); Jefferson and Sullivan (Fall Branch District); Cumberland and Warren (Cookeville District); Bedford and Lincoln (Lawrenceburg District); and Chester and Weakley (Jackson District).

“Drunk driving continues to threaten public safety, and we refuse to stand by and give offenders the opportunity to claim innocent lives on our roadways,” Col. Trott said. “Our State Troopers will aggressively seek out violators and remove them from state roads. We look forward to working with our local law enforcement partners in the 16 selected counties across the state during this ‘No Refusal’ enforcement.”

In Tennessee, the preliminary number of alcohol-related crashes has increased 8.7 percent through the first seven months of 2012, compared to that same time period last year. During that time, there were 2,995 crashes involving impaired drivers. That is 240 more than the 2,755 crashes during those same dates in 2011.

Colonel Trott also noted the number of DUI arrests made by State Troopers in 2012. They arrested 3,557 individuals for impaired driving from January 1 through August 13, 2012. In 2011, the number of arrests made during that time was 2,757. That’s a 29 percent increase during the same dates.

In addition to the ‘No Refusal’ program, motorists can also expect sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in other counties across the state for routine holiday enforcement.

During the 2011 Labor Day holiday, 12 people were killed in 11 fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways. That’s up from the 10 vehicular fatalities in 2010. Last year, alcohol was involved in two of the fatalities, and 40 percent of the vehicle occupants killed was not wearing safety restraints. Two motorcyclists were also killed during the 78-hour holiday period.

“Alcohol and seat belt usage are contributing factors in too many crashes in our state. This year, 55 percent of vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not wearing safety restraints. Our collaborative effort this weekend is also the perfect time to remind all motorists and their passengers to buckle up,” GHSO Director Kendell Poole said.

As of August 28, 2012, preliminary statistics indicate 666 have died on Tennessee roadways, an increase of 41 deaths (6.6%) compared to 625 fatalities at this same time last year.

A list of the scheduled “No Refusal” and Labor Day enforcement checkpoints are attached. A 2011 Labor Day holiday statistical sheet also accompanies this release.

Attachment

2012 Labor Day No Refusal Checkpoints 

2011 Labor Day holiday statistics

Categories
Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

No DNA Collected from DUI Suspects Under ‘No Refusal’ Law: State

The blood samples collected from suspected drunk drivers under a new “No Refusal” law are not added to a national DNA database used by prosecutors, according to Tennessee state public safety officials.

“Blood samples obtained by a search warrant from a suspected DUI offender are tested for blood alcohol content only,” Department of Safety Spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said via email. “Those blood samples are not used for any other purpose and are NOT placed in a DNA database.”

“There’s no DNA ever run on those,” said Kristin Helm, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. “I can assure you that’s not the case.”

The state this summer began enforcing a new law that allows cops to seek a warrant to compel people accused of driving under the influence to involuntarily give up a blood sample if they refuse a Breathalyzer or blood test.

State troopers forced eight people to submit to blood tests over the Fourth of July holiday weekend during the first test of the new law, DPS said.

A judge on-site issued warrants requiring the sobriety tests of the drivers, who had initially refused. Another 40 people stopped in Anderson, Bradley, Davidson, Maury and Warren counties submitted to the tests without a warrant. The results of those tests are not yet available.

State officials say the blood collected will not be used to bolster the national Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS, a database to which Tennessee adds tens of thousands of DNA profiles each year in an attempt to help prosecutors levy charges against crime suspects.

Not least among the reasons is it would be unlawful to do so.

Officials can only collect and keep DNA information from convicted felons and people accused of committing or being a party to a “violent felony,” such as aggravated assault and carjacking. This year, lawmakers added that people charged with five additional crimes would also have to give up DNA samples, including various homicide and manslaughter charges.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in 2011 wanted to expand that list to all felonies, like large-scale theft and drug crimes and DUIs, but the measure went nowhere.

The state collected 14,586 DNA samples from arrestees and 13,778 samples from convicts in the year ended June 2011, according to the TBI. The TBI handles DNA evidence for the major crimes that make it into CODIS and is in charge of examining blood work to measure alcohol or toxicity of DUI suspects.

The statements from TBI and Safety spokespersons conflicted with that of Safety Department Commissioner Bill Gibbons. The TBI is independent of his department.

Gibbons, a former Memphis district attorney, told TNReport on July 17 that the state does retain a database of DNA records for people accused of driving under the influence. “The state does have DNA records on many individuals, and you can run those results, and it really helps in terms of investigating a particular case, and I again, I think it’s to the advantage of everybody,” Gibbons said. And when asked specifically if the state retained a database of DNA records of people accused of DUIs, he said, “Yes, but how long it’s retained, I don’t know the answer to that. But yes, there is a database, so to speak, of that.”

Howver, that’s not accurate, Donnals said later. “I think Commissioner Gibbons misunderstood your question, and I wanted to make sure you had the correct information,” she said via email later the day of the interview.

Categories
Press Releases

New Law Forced 8 Drivers To Give Up Blood During DUI Stops Over Holiday Weekend

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; July 10, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security announced the results from the state’s first-ever “No Refusal” DUI enforcement effort which took place in five counties over the July Fourth holiday period. The campaign was a coordinated effort by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO), local district attorneys, and various local and state law enforcement agencies.

The “No Refusal” enforcement period started at 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 3, and ran through midnight, Sunday, July 8. This special enforcement was effective in selected counties where impaired driving and fatal crashes have increased this year, specifically, Anderson, Bradley, Davidson, Maury and Warren Counties.  State and local officials conducted sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in those counties as well as in other parts of the state.

The “No Refusal” law, enacted this year by the General Assembly, allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. Previously, a suspected impaired driver could refuse a blood alcohol content test and face charges of violating the implied consent law. This new law enables law enforcement to legally obtain blood samples by working with prosecutors and judges throughout the state during the warrant acquisition process.

The results for the “No Refusal” enforcement effort in each of the five counties are listed below:

Anderson County

DUI arrests: 4

Refusal to take BAC test/Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 1

Bradley County

DUI arrests: 8

Refusal to take BAC test/Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

Davidson County

DUI Arrests: 11

Refusal to take BAC test/Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 1

Maury County

DUI Arrests: 17

Refusal to take BAC test/Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 6

Warren County

DUI Arrests: 8

Refusal to take BAC test/Search warrants obtained for blood samples: 0

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public.  The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.

Categories
Press Releases

Cops to Forcibly Extract Blood-Alcohol Samples from Suspected Drunk Drivers Over Fourth of July Holiday Weekend

Press release from the Department of Safety; July 2, 2012:  

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott today partnered with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) and various local and state officials to announce this weekend’s first-ever “No Refusal” enforcement campaign.

The “No Refusal” enforcement period begins at 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 3, and will end at midnight, Sunday, July 8. This special enforcement will take place in selected counties where impaired driving and fatal crashes have increased in 2012, specifically, Anderson, Bradley, Davidson, Maury and Warren Counties. State and local officials will also conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in those counties as well as in other parts of the state.

The “No Refusal” law, enacted this year by the General Assembly, allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. Previously, a suspected impaired driver could refuse a blood alcohol content test and face charges of violating the implied consent law. This new law enables law enforcement to legally obtain blood samples by working with prosecutors and judges throughout the state during the warrant acquisition process.

“An enforcement campaign such as this requires the coordination and cooperation between law enforcement, local and state officials, and hospitals and emergency services personnel from across the state,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “The new law is an effective tool to hold impaired drivers accountable, but we hope as well that it will help deter people from driving under the influence in the first place,” Commissioner Gibbons added.

The preliminary number alcohol-related crashes on Tennessee roadways has increased 7.5 percent for the first six months of 2012, compared to the same time period last year. The THP reports 2,547 crashes involving impaired drivers in Tennessee from January 1 through June 30, 2012. That is 177 more than the 2,370 crashes during those same dates in 2011.

“It is my goal for the Tennessee Highway Patrol to do everything in its power to reduce alcohol-related fatalities and serious injury crashes on state highways and roads,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. “DUI enforcement has been a top priority for our agency over the last few years, and this new law will help keep drunk drivers off of the road.”

The “No Refusal” event also coincides with the state’s 2012 Fourth of July enforcement period, beginning at midnight, Wednesday, July 4 and ending at 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 8. During the 2011 Fourth of July holiday weekend, eight people died in seven crashes on Tennessee roadways. That’s the lowest number of deaths in a 96-hour Fourth of July period on record, yielding a fatality rate of one death every 12 hours. Of the seven vehicle occupants killed last year, five (71.4%) were not wearing seatbelts. One motorcyclist also died during last year’s July 4th holiday weekend. Four of the deaths, or 50 percent, occurred in alcohol-related crashes.

During the 2010 Fourth of July weekend, 392 people were killed in vehicular crashes nationwide. Of those fatalities, 39 percent were in crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 higher.

Impaired-driving crashes killed 10,228 people nationwide in 2010, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

In Tennessee, 946 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2011. Preliminary statistics indicate 250 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2011 that involved alcohol (26.4%).

“Impaired drivers account for approximately 30 percent of our state’s fatalities,” GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. “With the help of this new legislation, education, and enforcement efforts by our state and local law enforcement partners across the state, we can reduce that number and help save lives in Tennessee.”

As of July 2, preliminary statistics indicate 497 people have died on Tennessee roadways, an increase of 34 deaths compared to 463 fatalities at this same time in 2011.

“I am extremely concerned about the number of fatalities occurring on Tennessee roadways, and alcohol is a contributing factor in too many of these crashes,” TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said. “Whether it’s displaying the fatality information on our message boards or educating the public about the new No Refusal law, awareness is key in making our roads safer.”

A list of scheduled sobriety and driver license checkpoints for the “No Refusal” campaign and Fourth of July Holiday period can be found here.  Statistical data for 2011 Fourth of July holiday period is here.

Categories
Liberty and Justice News Transparency and Elections

Challenger to State Rep. Joshua Evans has DUI Record

A Capitol Hill lobbyist looking to unseat a rank-and-file House Republican has an arrest on suspicion of drunken driving in his history — a fact that a couple GOP incumbents want to highlight even while a fellow member of their caucus faces trial for DUI himself.

The two legislators are careful to say the run-in with the law shouldn’t disqualify Lee Harrell from being seriously considered in the race against Rep. Joshua Evans for the Robertson County House seat, but firmly add that it’s a fact voters should know.

“I think it’s probably important for voters to have that information and be able to use that in their consideration,” said Evans, a Republican from Greenbrier and small business owner.

Evans is beating back a challenge from Harrell, a lobbyist for the Tennessee School Boards Association, in the 66th District encompassing Robertson County. The August primary election race is one of 21 this year where House Republican incumbents are trying to fend off challengers.

Harrell was arrested Sept. 4, 2010, on drunken driving charges and refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test.

“It was certainly a mistake, but I learned from it. I’ve moved on. I’m a better person because of it,” Harrell told TNReport.

According to the arrest warrant, Harrell was driving 80 miles an hour in a 55 mile-per-hour zone on I-40 in Nashville on a Saturday night and was seen “meandering back and forth in his lane of travel, partly crossing into other lanes.” The report said he had watery, bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol and “lacked smooth pursuit” while performing field sobriety tests before refusing a blood-alcohol test.

His DUI charge was reduced to reckless driving. He pleaded guilty to the charge in January 2011, along with violating the implied consent law.

TNReport obtained documents about Harrell’s arrest from Rep. Vance Dennis, a Republican lawyer from Savannah who describes himself as a “good friend” of Evans, and provided the information for “personal” reasons.

“I was just trying to be helpful to the people of his district of Robertson County. To make sure everybody knows everything there is to know about Rep. Evans’ opponent,” he said.

But Dennis wouldn’t go so far as to criticize the plight of Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican who was arrested in October for DUI, illegal possession of a firearm and refusing a blood-alcohol test. His case has been bound over to a grand jury.

“I’m not going to cast aspersions on anyone for their prior actions, but I think people of the state have a right to know what’s out there and what’s in an individual’s history who’s running,” Dennis said.

Harrell says the leaked details of his DUI arrest prove his opponent isn’t certain of his re-election.

“You see this in politics all the time, and I think it’s just an indication that my opponent is not that confident in his voting record or in his relationships he has in the district, so he wants to point to this first rather than pointing to relevant information or relevant facts,” said Harrell.

Evans says Harrell’s mishap with the law only “recently came to his attention” and says he had nothing to do with making sure those details landed in TNReport’s hands. But he quickly added that he considers himself a proponent of stiffening DUI laws, including those that allow drivers to skip out on blood-alcohol tests.

“An issue like this is really up to the voters,” Evans said when asked whether Todd’s arrest, too, should be highlighted. He said he doesn’t plan on making Harrell’s DUI a part of his campaign.

Lawmakers added several DUI laws to the books this year, including one that would have forced drivers suspected of driving under the influence, like Harrell or Todd, to submit to a blood-alcohol test if compelled by a court order or a search warrant. That law is now in effect. Todd, who was on the floor during much of bill’s debate, left the chamber for the day minutes before lawmakers in the chamber voted.

Another clarifies that people entitled to use a drug that impairs a operating heavy machinery cannot use that as a defense against a DUI charge. That law kicks in July 1.