Common Drug Possession Mistakes

Memphis Drug Possession Mistakes

Throughout the past recent years drug possession laws have changed throughout Tennessee, and that change has been even more dramatic on a national level. Marijuana has been legalized in several states, partially legalized in many others and decriminalized in many more, but in Tennessee the possession of a ½ ounce or less on a first offense is still a misdemeanor and requires a minimum $250 fine.

Confusion about Tennessee’s drug possession laws and what is best for a person to do in the crucial moments of being charged can lead to people making mistakes that alter the outcome of their specific case. It’s crucial to understand that the ways in which someone handles themselves throughout the entire process has ripple effects in terms of legal outcomes. This includes moments like the original interactions with the police, the process of choosing the right attorney and everything up until the criminal trial officially ends.

Of course choosing the right legal team to help you is always crucial, which is part of the reason why we’re here to provide this information, but it’s also extremely important to have a secure understanding of Tennessee’s most common possession charges and the penalties that are associated with them, as well as the common mistakes people make when they get charged with possession. By going through these mistakes you’ll be much more prepared to avoid these situations entirely, and knowing the letter of the law and the penalties associated with certain possession charges will help put these crimes into a broader perspective.

Common Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes that people make while facing some kind of drug possession charge is making an unnecessary admission of guilt. When you admit any piece of information that is in any way incriminating to a police officer it can almost completely tarnish your case later in court. Of course you should always be cooperative and respectful of police in every situation, but a person who is arrested for anything doesn’t have to say anything and can wait till a legal representative arrives to help them.

Most people tend to either reject or accommodate the demonstrations of authority that police commonly exhibit in these types of situations, and it’s always best to not be aggressive to an officer and at the same time not be too accommodating. A lot of people simply want their situation to go by more smoothly and get frightened when the police are being interrogative, and that’s when excessive details and problematic statements can be made. Officers even try to trick people by saying things will be ‘easier’ for you if you tell them everything, and this could be true in some situations, but the officer is not qualified to give out legal advice and you should save these conversations for your hired legal counsel.

Another very popular mistake that people make when facing drug possession charges is assuming a plea bargain will give minimal consequences for first-time arrestees. A ton of people are not familiar with the court system and simply put way too much faith within their plea bargains, and it’s important to realize that a plea bargain isn’t something that every first-time arrestee is entitled to, and it’s not a chance to ‘cut a deal’ with a judge. Your attorney, charge, judge, prosecutor and the circumstances of your specific case will determine whether or not you have the opportunity to reduce your charges by pleading guilty.

This last common mistake we’ll discuss here is something that A LOT of us don’t think about, and it’s not exercising necessary common sense and legal caution through social media accounts. The Internet is simply not private or anonymous and never truly will be, so everyone has to be careful of what they post online. If you are in the situation in which you’ve been charged with marijuana possession and your Facebook is full of 4/20 references and pictures of weed the prosecution could present this as evidence in court if they believe it’s necessary. Also, this may seem a little surprising, but people sometimes incriminate themselves on legal advice forums because these sites are not always anonymous or secure. 

It’s extremely important to stay cognizant when out on the roads or simply in the presence of police officers, and if you do end up getting yourself in the unfortunate situation of being arrested for a drug possession charge then it’s best to stay respectful, but quiet, and contact our office as soon as possible and have one of our representatives speak for you and your case.

Don’t get sucked into these common mistakes and have the pros put you in the best place possible under your given circumstances!


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St. Patrick’s Day Uber Rides

Discounted Uber Rides for St. Patrick’s Day

Discounted Uber Rides for St. Patricks Day - Hamilton Law Firm

The Hamilton Law Firm specializes in criminal defense cases that often involve DUI’s. We don’t want you to turn a night of fun into a night in jail and criminal charges that could affect you for the rest of your life. Because of this, we are proud to offer discounted Uber rides for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day.

The favorite holiday for the Irish and Irish Americans, and many other people as well, is coming up shortly.  St. Patrick’s Day is our national day for wearing green, pinching those not wearing green, parade-watching, game-playing, overloading on good food, and drinking plenty of Guinness and other alcoholic beverages.  

St. Patrick’s Day is considered one of the heaviest drinking days of the year all across the United States. In Memphis, that holds true every year and leads to dangerous roads and a guaranteed increased number of DUIs. It’s part of the holiday to meet up with your friends at a local pub and have a beer after the work day, but as we all know, one thing can lead to another on St. Patrick’s Day and leave you or a friend entirely too intoxicated to drive.

Whether you’re heading to the Green Jello’s St. Paddy’s Day Music & Comedy Fest, Celtic Crossing, Brass Door, the 45th Annual Beale Street St. Patrick’s Day Parade, or one of the numerous other fun activities or events being held, we want you to have fun!  As with any major holiday that regularly involves drinking, the roads become an increasingly dangerous place.  As the festivities typically last until after 9 p.m., the potential fatigue and excess of alcohol can be a dangerous combination.

The Hamilton Law Firm wants the entire community to have a great and memorable time, but also stay safe.  With that in mind, we are proud to sponsor discounted Uber rides in Memphis, up to a total of $250, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, between the hours of 12 p.m and 10 p.m.  Each ride will be discounted $5 until the money is exhausted.

A ridesharing company such as Uber, provides an important resource to help keep drivers off the road when they’ve had too much to drink.  Founded in 2009, Uber has 40 million riders and 2 million drivers in 76 countries around the world.  Riders use a smartphone app to hail a private car, which can be tracked via the app so riders and drivers know the ride’s status at all times.

Use Our Uber Codes to get Around Safely

Hamilton Law Firm St. Patricks Day Uber Rides

In Memphis, the local police force is prepared and ready to crack down on drunk drivers with checkpoints and heightened roadside security measures throughout the entire city.

The beauty of Uber and other rideshare apps is that it becomes a lot easier to responsibly get from point A to point B when you’re out drinking with your friends and trying to have a fun holiday celebration. Uber has been an incredible resource for helping make Memphis’ roads much safer since 2009, and today in 2018, it’s par for the course to Uber when you’ve been drinking. Sometimes people are reluctant to take Ubers on days like St. Patrick’s Day because so many people are on the app and the prices start to surge, and that’s why we’re excited to help keep the costs down for you as you make the conscious effort to travel safely.

Using an Uber will help you avoid a drunk driving conviction.  DUI laws in Tennessee call for at least 48 hours in jail and a fine for a first-time offender, and penalties are progressively more serious for subsequent convictions.  Refusing to take a breathalyzer results in an automatic one-year license suspension, since Tennessee has implied consent laws.  Your fine is the least of the potential financial trouble, as you could also pay higher insurance rates, court costs, bail, and attorney fees.

As you can see, the consequences of driving under the influence are serious.  Avoiding these consequences are simple.  Plan before the game to have a designated driver, or let The Hamilton Law Firm save you some money on an Uber.  Fill out the form below to apply for a discount code.  The first 50 people will have a code emailed to them.

 

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Discounted Uber Rides

Discounted Uber Rides for the Big Game

 

The pro football season ended for Tennessee just a couple games short of the ultimate prize. But when New England and Philadelphia square off in the big game on Sunday, Feb. 4, fans all around Tennessee will come together on this “unofficial American holiday” to enjoy the contest, the commercials and the concert — along with large quantities of food and drink.

It’s estimated that Americans consume more than a billion chicken wings on this day, and one study shows it is among the heaviest drinking days of the year. As the festivities typically last until after 9 p.m., the fatigue and the excess can be a dangerous combination. The Hamilton Law Firm wants the entire community to have fun, but also stay safe. With that in mind, we are proud to sponsor discounted Uber rides in Memphis, up to a total of $250, on Feb. 4 between the hours of 9 and 11 p.m. Each ride will be discounted $5 until the money is exhausted.

Risky on the Roads

The heightened risk on the roads after the big game is well documented. Tennessee player Delanie Walker learned this in a sadly personal manner in 2013; hours after playing for the championship with San Francisco, his aunt and uncle were struck and killed by a drunk driver near the stadium in New Orleans. Here in Tennessee, a woman in Chattanooga struck a firefighter with her car on the night of the game in 2015 after working her shift at a sports bar. She later pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

Against that backdrop, a ridesharing company such as Uber, provides an important resource to help keep drivers off the road when they’ve had too much to drink. Founded in 2009, Uber has 40 million riders and 2 million drivers in 76 countries around the world. Riders use a smartphone app to hail a private car, which can be tracked via the app so riders and drivers know the ride’s status at all times.

Use Our Uber Codes to get Around Safely

Using an Uber could help you avoid a drunk driving conviction. DUI laws in Tennessee call for at least 48 hours in jail and a fine for a first-time offender, and penalties are progressively more serious for subsequent convictions. Refusing to take a breathalyzer results in an automatic one-year licenses suspension, since Tennessee has implied consent laws. Your fine is not the least of the financial trouble, as you’ll also could also pay higher insurance rates, court costs, bail and attorney fees.

As you can see, the consequences of driving under the influence are great. The steps to avoid these consequences are simple. Plan before the game to have a designated driver, or let The Hamilton Law Firm save you some money on an Uber. Fill out the form below to apply for a discount code. The first 50 will have a code emailed to them.


 

Discounted Uber Rides

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Can You Deny Police Entry to Your Home?

Do the Police have a legal right to enter?

Police entering the homes and apartments of Memphis’ residents, especially the city’s college students, has been a growing hot topic. It is not only timely, but important to prudently discuss the state of Tennessee’s laws that detail when police officers have the legal right to enter your home and also provide essential information oriented towards the rights we all have in terms of granting or denying permission to enter.

First and foremost, it’s important to mention the Fourth Amendment is the cornerstone behind the laws about governmental search, which includes homes, dwellings and vehicles. To put it rather simply, the Fourth Amendment gives all people the right to be secure in their homes and bodies against any kind of unreasonable seizures or searches, and this right can’t be violated unless law officers utilize a warrant that’s based upon probable cause. This may seem pretty straightforward in that police can’t enter your home without a warrant or probable cause. This is fundamentally true, but there are also many exceptions within the Fourth Amendment that police officers consistently utilize in order to legally establish probable cause, which everyone needs to know about.

What this article aims to do is give you a few legal tips to keep in mind when you get in a situation in which the police ask to search your home, the legal exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, tactics police officers use in these situations and what you can do to prevent unreasonable searches of your home.

‘Knock and Talk’ Investigations

The first thing that everyone needs to fully understand is the concept of a knock and talk which police officers will routinely conduct. This entails knocking on a home’s door and wanting to speak with the resident or whomever ends up being the one who answers the door. In these situations, the police may ask to gain entry into the apartment/home by getting provided consent from the person they’re speaking to. At the same time, they’ll take this opportunity to look inside and around the residence to see if there can be anything that could give them probable cause to come into your home.

You DO NOT have to give consent in these situations and can politely refuse their requests in these situations because in knock and talk investigations, the police may still be investigating to find some kind of probable cause to enter your home.

Determining the Reason They’re There 

Being polite to the police goes A VERY LONG WAY. When the police come to your door your must very respectfully ask, ‘How can I help you?’ and get an idea as to why they’ve arrived at your home.

Many times, the police will be at your door for something that has nothing to do with you. An example being, they are looking for more information about a crime that was committed in your neighborhood, or they are responding to a noise complaint. If they are there because of a noise complaint, then you should simply apologize for the inconvenience and turn down your music or stop whatever it is that’s causing the noise.

Of course, there are instances in which the police are interested in investigating you or what’s happening in your home and ask for your consent for entry. These situations are more complex, and you should contact a lawyer as soon as you can in these instances.

The following section helps you navigate your options in the moment while in these types of situations.

What You Should Know About Your Rights

This section is going to give you quite a bit of information about your rights as a citizen in the situation that the police want to search your home. It’s also important that in all of these moments you MUST REMAIN RESPECTFUL AND NOT BE AGGRESSIVE. When it comes to the law, there is no doubt that you can verbally reject a police officer’s request and ask your own questions, but as many of us know, police officers like to get their way and can even work beyond their scope of authority without proper authorization at times.

In the end, if the police simply decides to enter your home without your permission or a warrant, then you should never physically attempt to stop them. This will work out horribly in the long run and is better worked out with the help of an experienced lawyer in the court system.

With these cardinal rules of respect in mind, here are some imperative rights you need to keep in mind when the police are at your door.

A warrant is almost always needed to search your home. 

This goes back to the Fourth Amendment, and the concept of police searches being reasonable. What’s essential about this is if a police search is found to be unreasonable in court, then all of the evidence gathered during the search is deemed illegally acquired and cannot be used in any criminal case.

Consent is the big clincher and the most obvious exception to the Fourth Amendment and the necessity of a warrant to enter and search your home. The Fourth Amendment really is a reminder to law officers that they can’t burst into someone’s home without a judge’s permission, unless there is an emergency or they have probable cause to initiate a search.

Probable cause is what the police will almost always use as their legal reasoning to be able to enter your home without a warrant, and anything that an officer hears, sees or smells can be used as fair game for their judgment towards whether there is probable cause to initiate the search of a home.

Even if you have absolutely nothing to hide, you should remember there’s also nothing to gain from a search of your home. If you are in proper legal standing to deny a search request you should always do so.

Being inside your home is the best protection towards unreasonable intrusions. 

Your right to be secure in your home is protected by the Fourth Amendment, and the police do not have the right to invade this privacy without a warrant, or probable cause. When the police are at your door and want to speak with you, there are no legal ramifications for staying inside your home if you don’t commit obstruction of justice.

If you are not concerned with your privacy and don’t mind speaking face-to-face with the police, you can always open your door, but you should always close your door behind you, which we’ll discuss further in the exceptions section later pertaining to the plain view doctrine.

You don’t have to open the door when there is no warrant. 

Unless there is an emergency or the police have a warrant, you are not in the legal position to have to open the door for the police. You also aren’t required to even talk to them or answer any questions, and it’s important to understand that if a police officer is asking for your consent to search your home it’s because they don’t have enough evidence for a warrant and don’t have probable cause.

The best thing to do when police are at your door is to very calmly and respectfully not give your consent for a search unless a warrant is provided and to not answer any questions until you’ve consulted with an attorney.

You can say no to the cops. 

It’s at times a little bit scary to do so, because as we’ve said police officers tend to not like it when a citizen refuses their request, and many times a search refusal will be responded with subtle threats like, ‘You don’t want to be arrested, do you?’

In the long run, the police want your consent so they don’t have to go through the time and effort to obtain a search warrant, but that’s not your problem. Some people will act differently and let the cops do anything they want in their homes because they have nothing to hide, but by letting a police officer into your home you also have nothing to gain as well.

When can police legally search your home without a warrant?

The first thing to consider here is that if the police do not have a reasonable expectation to give you privacy and they also do not have probable cause, then they are going to require a search warrant to enter your home. But that’s not how reality works, and there are many exceptions to needing a warrant for the police to justify probable cause.

It can be just about anything, so it’s important to stay smart in terms of not providing any loopholes for the police to proclaim they have probable cause. The following are the main exceptions to the Fourth Amendment and ways in which the police can search your home without warrant.

Consent

This is the most obvious exception, and many times people simply don’t know that they have the right to refuse searches, which can lead them into unnecessary legal trouble.

There are some rules with consent that everyone needs to know, though. Some of these restrictions include the fact that a tenant of an apartment/home can give consent for the police to search the common areas of the home, but cannot give consent to search areas that are owned by other tenants. Also, a landlord cannot give the police consent to search their tenants’ private belongings, but an employer can give consent to the police for them to search an employee’s work area.

Plan View Doctrine 

Police can search a house and seize any evidence that is clearly visible, so if the police see something illegal outside of your house they can then perform a search of your home without a warrant. It’s also important to know that the cops must have probable cause to believe that what they see in or outside your home is in fact illegal.

Search in Connection to Arrest

There is no need for a warrant to conduct a search when you are arrested of a crime, so if you do get arrested for something like possession of drugs the cops can then search for any other additional drugs or illegal activity in your home or car to find any additional evidence against you.

The police also conduct what is called protective sweeps when they feel there may be dangerous accomplices hiding inside a specific location. Anything that’s located in plain view can also be seized during the sweep.

Exigent Circumstances

There are times when the police can search your home without a warrant if they feel as though the time to get a warrant would jeopardize public safety, or lead to the loss of any evidence. An example of this is that they can forcibly enter a home without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe that the destruction of the evidence was happening.

This also applies when a suspect is trying to escape them or if someone is being injured. These exigent circumstances exist so the police officer’s duty to arrest a suspect, protect someone and preserve evidence can outweigh the requirement of having a search warrant.

Knowing Your Rights… 

Now that you’ve read through the information on this page you should have a better understanding of the different options you have when the police show up at your doorstep and say they’d like to look around your home.

The truth is that you have the legal right to refuse this kind of request, but by refusing you can put yourself at risk of injury or being arrested for interfering with an investigation.

Although it’s always a pretty scary situation you now know that you aren’t required to give consent when police ask for entry to your home. The best thing to do in any situation when the police are at your door is to ask them for their identification and have them clearly explain to you why they are at your home. Their explanation for being at your home is always one of the most crucial pieces of information you’ll need, but don’t be tricked by subtle threats into giving your consent.

Remember, if they don’t have probable cause that may be why they are asking for your consent, and you never have to give up your rights for privacy, especially if you aren’t doing anything illegal.


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Can you beat a breathalyzer test?

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Memphis Breathalyzer Tests

We live in an age remarkable for its precise scientific instruments. Astronomers tell us they can not only find planets orbiting stars dozens or even hundreds of light-years away, but even tell us what kind of atmosphere those worlds might have; electron microscopes allow medical researchers to examine the structure of a single virus or to map the human genome; some high-speed cameras can record up to a trillion frames a second, fast enough to catch light waves in slow motion.

A police officer can ask you to blow into a small device that – supposedly, at least – will measure alcohol in your blood down to a tiny amount, the proverbial “.08” threshold that can decide whether you face charges for drunk driving.

Back in the old days, before breathalyzer technology existed, police had to rely on more subjective ways to decide whether you were DUI: bloodshot eyes, open containers in the car, the smell of alcohol on your breath, slurred speech, whether you could pass field sobriety tests. These techniques were, and are, subject to simple and subjective defenses: you were tired. Your prescription medication was causing side effects. You were distracted. In the end, it’d be your word against the officer’s.

But how do you argue against a breathalyzer? It’s not like you can quibble, “But officer, that looks like a .07 to me.” No, that “.08” or higher reading just stares back at you, like there’s nothing you can do about it.

Or can you?

Although the science behind breathalyzers continues to advance, it is not yet perfect. Studies have demonstrated that under the right circumstances, these measurement devices can produce an inaccurate result. People have tried to take advantage of those circumstances, or to even create them, in a variety of ways. Some never work. Others, however, just might. Let’s take a look at some techniques to confound a breathalyzer, to see whether and how they might help you to unsettle “settled science.”

What won’t work

hamilton-law-firm-memphis-criminal-defense-beat-breathalyzer-wont-work

Before we consider the more plausible was to challenge a breathalyzer test, we’ll dispense with some myths and urban legends that only succeed in making those who try them look foolish:

  • Putting pennies in your mouth. Some people have advocated, and a handful have even tried this idea in the hope that copper from the penny will transfer to their mouths, and that this metallic trace will confuse a breathalyzer. This might succeed in leaving a bad taste, and depending on where that penny has been before you put it under your tongue it might have other undesirable effects. But will it throw off the breathalyzer? No.
  • Using mouthwash, mints chewing gum or other breath fresheners to hide the odor of alcohol or your breath (or in more extreme cases, eating your own underwear or putting your own feces in your mouth). This tactic might make it harder for a police officer to smell what you’ve had to drink, but breathalyzer technology doesn’t detect alcohol the same way that your nose does.

What might work

Although there are no “trick products” that will work to fool a breathalyzer, that does not mean that a breathalyzer’s accuracy cannot be compromised. Let’s take a look at ways with some scientific basis behind them to call into question breathalyzer results.

  • Challenging the mechanical reliability of the breathalyzer. Just like you need to periodically maintain and tune up your car to keep it running in top form, as a precision instrument a breathalyzer must be regularly checked and calibrated and records maintained of when the calibration took place and who did it. If you can show that the breathalyzer used on you was not properly calibrated, this can cast doubt on whether it gave an accurate measurement.
  • Challenging the police officer’s technical competence or legal basis to use the breathalyzer. This can take the form of calling into question the officer’s training in how to operate the device, or whether the officer lacked either the reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle in the first place or the probable cause to believe you were DUI before having you blow into it.
  • Challenging the officer’s testimony at trial. Often by the time a police officer employs a breathalyzer on you, another officer will be present. But if only one of these officers is present to testify against you, and he or she is not the one who used the breathalyzer, then you might have an argument that you are being denied your right under the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution to confront your accuser.
  • Introducing environmental conditions that could affect the accuracy of the breathalyzer reading. There are several ways in which the introduction of some external element, such as alcohol in your mouth, might compromise the breathalyzer result. We will go over some of these in more detail below.

How external factors can affect breathalyzer results

Lung capacity of the test subject. The breathalyzer measures alcohol that has been exchanged from your bloodstream into your breath through alveolar air the upper passages of your lungs. It is possible to argue that a person with larger lungs will have less alcohol density in this alveolar air, which might lower the breathalyzer reading for larger individuals.

Breathing patterns. Holding your breath before taking the breathalyzer test, or keeping your mouth closed for at least five minutes before, or even burping might affect the concentration of alcohol in the breath sample because of the presence of small amounts of gastric residue or undigested alcohol in the mouth can result in a reading that is higher than is actually the case.

Chemicals that interfere with the breathalyzer’s function. The penny-in-the-mouth trick may not work, but its premise – that a breathalyzer can be fooled when it picks up something “extra” in the air sample – has some merit. People have claimed false breathalyzer readings in reaction to:

  • Breathing fumes from paint thinners or lacquers.
  • Ingesting over-the-counter products that contain alcohol, such as cough syrups or other cold medications and sleep-aids.
  • Drinking some types of energy drinks, non-alcoholic beverages or carbonated drinks.
  • Eating certain foods such as ripe fruits, hot sauces, breads or dishes prepared with alcohol.
  • Skin products like after-shave, perfume or hand sanitizers.

This list is by no means exhaustive. To give you an idea of how such substances can affect a breathalyzer sample, consider a couple of examples: ketosis, and hand sanitizers.

Ketosis

Breathalyzers detect the presence of alcohol in your breath, but they are not choosy about the kind of alcohol they find. Your alcoholic beverage contains ethanol, but even if you haven’t been drinking your digestive system can produce isopropanol through a process known as “ketosis.” This can happen if you are observing a low-carb diet, have been exercising strenuously, or have diabetes: your body breaks down fat cells to product energy, producing acetone which then breaks down into isopropanol that the breathalyzer picks up.

Note that it is unlikely that ketosis alone would be enough to produce a .08 or higher blood alcohol content reading on a breathalyzer. But if you have drank enough alcohol to put you close to the legal limit, ketosis-derived isopropanol in your system might be just enough to put you past it.

Hand sanitizers

hamilton-law-firm-memphis-criminal-defense-beat-breathalyzer-hand-sanitizer

To start with, we are not talking about you swallowing hand sanitizer fluid, or even putting it on your own hands. Rather, if the person administering the breath test to you uses hand sanitizer shortly before doing so, the breathalyzer can read the ethanol in the hand sanitizer. And unlike ketosis-driven results, the hand sanitizer alone can lead to DUI-level breathalyzer readings, even as high as .15 is some cases.

How likely is it that your breathalyzer test will give a bad result?

By now you can see that although a breathalyzer is a precision measuring instrument, it is not infallible. Nor, however, is there such a thing as a “magic bullet” way to beat a breathalyzer test. Even the possibilities that have some scientific basis to them, like ketosis or hand sanitizers, may have little or no effect on your test result.

What is more, police officers and prosecutors are well aware of these possible defenses to a DUI charge, and the better ones train to minimize the risks of a false breathalyzer reading. They will wait for mouth alcohol to dissipate. They will wear gloves. They will take more than one breath sample. They will look for other ways (like field sobriety tests) to back up their decision to arrest you for drunk driving.

Something else to take away from this discussion is that what potential defenses you have against a breathalyzer test depend heavily on the specific facts of your case. Not every defense will apply to every situation. This is where your Memphis criminal defense attorney, in his or her responsibility to zealously represent your interests, must do the investigative work to find out which breathalyzer-related defenses to consider, and how to integrate them into a vigorous and comprehensive defense strategy.


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