The Tennessee Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to hear a controversial case from Chattanooga that's thrown drunk-driving prosecutions statewide into limbo.
Early last month, the Criminal Court of Appeals said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was overseeing an "unconstitutional" fee system that only made defendants pay a $250 blood test fee if they were convicted.
Because of that ruling, which stems from a 2012 DUI case in Chattanooga, many defense attorneys believe Tennessee courts can't allow blood or breathalyzer testing into evidence in DUI cases as long as TBI's crime lab continues to receive that fee. They say the fee serves as a conflict of interest that brings the testing results into question.
DUI cases are more challenging for prosecutors to win without blood tests in evidence. In addition to that, public confidence in DUI enforcement will erode with this ruling in place, according to Tennessee Assistant Solicitor General Jonathan Shaub, who appealed the ruling last month in a 21-page brief.
According to state Supreme Court's order, arguments will take place May 31 in Nashville. Before that time, Shaub and Chattanooga attorney Jerry Summers can file additional arguments with the court.
Summers is the same defense attorney who triggered a 2013 review of 3,800 TBI lab results in various cases after he discovered that a technician switched one of his clients' blood samples with another sample, leading to unfounded vehicular homicide and DUI charges that prosecutors later dismissed.