Recently, I had a client who, unfortunately passed away while her case was pending. The typical procedure in a situation like this is to conclude the case by what is called an “abatement.” Although this did conclude the case, I was concerned that her young child may later review her criminal history and find she was charged with a DUI. Accordingly, I attempted to expunge. (erase from public record.) my client’s arrest. The state, however, objected to expunging this case, arguing that only dismissed cases could be expunged, not those that have been abated. Considering that we had a valid defense in this case, and further considering that every citizen is presumed innocent unless proven guilty, I decided to pursue this matter further.
I met with my State Senator, Becky Massey, who was kind enough to provide me with some advice on how to propose a bill to the Tennessee Legislature. After my law partners and I drafted the proposed bill we sought and obtained endorsements from several respected legal organizations. I am proud to report that Senator Massey and Representative Andrew Farmer from District 17 will be sponsoring this bill.
While I was at it, I decided to proceed with drafting another bill to allow defendants to expunge an Implied Consent violation once it is dismissed (or abated). Current law does not allow for the expungement of an Implied Consent violation because it is not a criminal offense. Only criminal offenses may be expunged under current law. This bill was also endorsed by the same legal organizations, Senator Massey, and this time, Representative William Lamberth, who is from the 44th District.
We are hopeful that these bills will pass, and that Tennessee expungement laws will again be expanded. My thanks go out to the legislators who have supported these important changes. This process is how laws keep up with the expectation and needs of Tennesseans. I will keep you advised as these bills proceed through the legislature.
About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants. Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD). Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve has served as Dean of the NCDD and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.
He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 9th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen). Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions. He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and seven foreign countries. After being named a Fulbright Scholar, Steve was honored to teach as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Latvia Law School in the capital city of Riga, Latvia during the Spring Semester of 2019. During the Spring Semester of 2023, Steve taught as an Adjunct Professor at the Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary. If you would like to contact the author, please visit his website at www.tndui.com.