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DUIs: What you need to know

12:43 PM, Dec 31, 2012   |    comments
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Over his 34-year career, Knoxville attorney Steve Oberman estimates he's represented 2,000-2,500 clients battling DUI cases, and some of his strongest advice remains not to drink and drive.

"To be arrested for DUI, even if you're not convicted, is a life changing experience," says Oberman.

Oberman literally wrote the book on defending DUI cases. He is the only certified specialist in the Knoxville area. 

10News sat down with Oberman the day before New Year's Eve to answer some common questions about dealing with DUI's.

What should you do if you're pulled over?

"First of all, you should cooperate with the police," says Oberman. "In all my years of representing people, I've never yet seen an officer that said 'oh, you're too tough for me, you go on your way.'

He says that means handing over all your information, and he advises doing it politely.

"It will escalate if you're rude to the officer," says Oberman.

But he says drivers are not required to disclose how much they've been drinking, or do a field sobriety test.

He says if a driver declines a field test, an officer has the option to contact a judge for a warrant to take a blood sample.

"If there's no search warrant to take the blood from the person, then that is a violation of our constitutional rights."

What changes during 'no refusal' enforcement campaigns?

"The law does not change. What's different is there's typically a judge on call and the officer can quickly contact that judge to get a search warrant," says Oberman.

City, county, and state officers across the area will be conducting 'no refusal' campaigns during this year's New Year's Eve.

Are the punishments for DUI getting stricter?

"Under the old law, there was no required jail time. Now there's mandatory jail time. There was as no loss of drivers license. Now your drivers license will be revoked for a minimum of one year. The fines have gone through the roof," says Oberman.

What will it cost a driver who gets arrested for DUI?

Oberman says the cost can vary between $5,000 to $25,000 to hire a "good" attorney.

Conducting an investigation and hiring expert witnesses can cost an additional $5,000 to $10,000.

But it doesn't end there.

"You're thrown in jail for four to ten hours the first offense. You have to pay a bond company to get out of jail," says Oberman.

In addition, he says to expect to find your name all over the internet and published in the local papers.

"People will know you've been arrested," says Oberman.

He also says people convicted of DUI may be unable to get health or life insurance.

"People lose their jobs. That's why they pay me a lot of money," says Oberman. Doctors can lose their medical licenses. Realtors can lose their real estate licenses.

"You won't be able to go to Canada for five years. That's how serious this crime is," says Oberman.

Sobering warnings from a man who knows the system. But there are plenty of alternatives to getting behind the wheel this New Year's Eve.

One of the alternatives is AAA's "Tow and Go" program.

One of AAA's tow trucks will take you and your car home for free within a ten mile radius.

The service is available within Knox, Blount, Seveir, Cocke, Jefferson, Grainger, Union, Roane, and Loudon Counties.

You don't have to be a AAA member, but the company asks you use the service as a last resort.

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