Tennessee v. Decosimo

Brief of Amici Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Filed In Support of the Defendant/Appellee

Brief filed: 05/29/2018


Tennessee v. Decosimo

Supreme Court of Tennessee; Case No. E2017-00696-SC-R11-CD

Prior Decision

2018 WL 733218 (Tenn.Crim.App.)


The Court should apply strict scrutiny and hold that Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-413(f), which requires the payment of a $250 fee when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”) provides expert proof to local law enforcement agencies in the form of a blood alcohol or drug concentration test. is unconstitutional on substantive due process grounds. That fee is assessed only when the expert proof provided by the TBI results in a conviction for certain crimes, including DUI. Applying strict scrutiny, this Court should find that section 55-10-413(f) is more restrictive than is necessary to achieve the State’s interest in funding the TBI’s forensic testing operation. Because section 55-10-413(f) encroaches upon the criminal defendant’s fundamental right to a fair trial, strict scrutiny is the applicable standard of review. Section 55-10-413(f) cannot withstand strict scrutiny because it is not narrowly tailored to serve the State’s interest in funding the forensic testing performed by the TBI. Even if strict scrutiny does not apply, none of the State’s arguments demonstrate that section 55-10-413(f) comports with due process principles. Partiality on the part of the TBI forensic scientists is not consistent with due process. The conviction-dependent, contingency-fee system in this case is different than the administrative system of assessing civil penalties at issue in Marshall v. Jerrico. The TBI’s pecuniary interest in obtaining criminal convictions is sufficient to sustain the due process claim. The Court of Criminal Appeals properly suppressed the forensic evidence without requiring a showing of actual bias. 


Brennan M. Wingerter, East Tennessee Appellate litigation, PLLC, Knoxville, TN; William Gill, Asst. Professor, LMU Duncan School of Law, Knoxville, TN; Stephen Ross Johnson, Ritchie, Dillard, Davies & Johnson, P.C., Knoxville, TN; Joseph S. Ozment, The Law Office of Joseph S. Ozment, Memphis, TN

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