Tennessee Supreme Court reverses breath test fee ruling

Friday, August 24, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 34

NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a ruling that said it was unconstitutional for the state to require people found guilty of DUI to pay a fee if a blood or breath test was used to convict.

The opinion by Justice Cornelia A. Clark rejected the defendant's due process challenge and disagreed with the Court of Criminal Appeals, which ruled in the defendant's favor in February. That ruling found that the $250 fee violated due process and called into question the trustworthiness of test results obtained by the bureau's forensic scientists.

Clark's opinion said the General Assembly could have found a better way to provide funding for the testing operations and pointed out that was done in May. But she said the court concluded that the statute didn't deprive the defendant of due process.

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III said in a news release that the ruling does away with any questions over previous DUI convictions.

Jerry H. Summers, one of the attorneys for defendant Rosemary L. Decosimo of Chattanooga, said he has already asked for bond for his client while he appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he said he had expected the case would wind up.

"It's a case of constitutional significance in Tennessee and also affects other states," he said.

The case was joined by more than 20 defendants who were charged with DUIs after they provided blood or breath samples.

Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins and Justices Sharon G. Lee, Holly Kirby and Roger A. Page joined in the opinion.