What to do if you get a DUI while on vacation in Gatlinburg

Tennessee is known worldwide for its Tennessee Whiskey, especially Jack Daniels, and Gatlinburg and Sevierville have quickly become prime moonshine distilling towns. Its no surprise that visitors and vacationers want to enjoy some of the drinks that have made this area famous.

Unfortunately, anyone can misjudge their limits and make a one time mistake. This is especially common while on vacation.

DUI Lawyer in Gatlinburg & East Tennessee

DUI lawyer Gatlinburg TNIf you’ve come to Gatlinburg or East Tennessee and been charged with a DUI, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to handle a criminal case so far from home. In this article, I’ll address several of the concerns that are specific to a DUI while on vacation and also specific to Sevier County and the Great Smoky Mountains.

In 2014, over 10 million people visited the park and many others came to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Of those millions, inevitably some will be charged with DUI. Once charged, you face not only the normal serious penalties for a DUI in Tennessee, but also the added difficulty of dealing with the case from far away.


This is an important first question to answer. The national park is federal property and DUIs occurring in the park are prosecuted in federal court. You will know your DUI was in the park if you given citations requiring you to appear in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

If you were arrested outside the park, you will likely have been stopped by local law enforcement or the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Your court documents should require you to appear at the Sevier County General Sessions Court.

Since most DUIs occur on state land, the remainder of this article will address Tennessee State court. However, much of the information will relate generally to handling a DUI arrest from out of state.



Being from out of state can make bonding out of jail more difficult. Bonding companies want to know that the person they post bond for will show back up to court. If they don’t, the bonding companies lose money. People from out of state pose a larger risk of not showing up to court.

The ideal way to bond out is to post your own “cash” bond. You can do this by having someone deposit the full amount of the bond, often in the neighborhood of $1,500, with the Clerk of Court. Just call the clerk’s office and they will help you with this.

When you post your own cash bond, the money remains yours and will be refunded at the end of the case, though any court costs and fines will be taken out first.

When you hire a bondsman, you will pay a percentage of the bond as a fee. The fee is non-refundable. The fee is often 10%, though for out of state travelers it is often more.


You will have a court date set about a month after your arrest. That court date is an arraignment. It has three primary purposes:

  1. To make sure you understand what you’ve been charged with.
  2. To make sure you have a lawyer, either appointed if you qualify, or retained.
  3. To schedule a court date for your case to be heard.

Fortunately for travelers, if you hire an attorney before this court date, your attorney can “waive” your arraignment and set a date for your case to be heard. That will save you a trip back to Tennessee, since if you do not have an attorney you must appear at your arraignment or risk having a warrant issued for your arrest.



Hiring a lawyer is more difficult if you cannot meet personally with several candidates. However, there are ways to make this process easier, namely, technology.

The considerations for hiring a lawyer from out of state are the same as they otherwise would be, but with added requirements. The process of hiring the right lawyer for you is beyond the scope of this article, but at the least, your potential new lawyer should:

  1. Have handled numerous DUI cases, including having hearings and trials
  2. Devote a significant portion of his or her practice to DUI defense
  3. Have experience in the particular courts and counties where you were charged
  4. Be able to answer all your questions and explain to you in detail how your case will be handled and what to expect

Modern technology has made communication much easier. Skype allows for long distance meetings without costs and email and cell phones make communication instant. You should expect excellent communication from your lawyer before and after you hire. 



Probably so, though the number of trips can be reduced with planning.

It is unlikely your lawyer can handle your case without you ever appearing. However, many clients have to appear two, three, four, or more times in the course of a normal DUI case. The number of trips you have to make can be reduced if you and your lawyer plan ahead.

The court has the authority to allow your lawyer to appear on your behalf at preliminary court dates. On these dates your lawyer may negotiate with the prosecutor and discuss your case and how it might be resolved. Clients typically attend these dates, but you may prefer to speak with your lawyer by phone, rather than flying in.

Ultimately, you are likely to have to make a trip back to East Tennessee to resolve your case. A good attorney will work with you to pick a date that works for your and the court’s schedule. The case is likely to be pending anywhere from 4 to 12 months, so you will have plenty of time to plan.



If you are convicted of DUI, Tennessee will suspend your driving privileges from 1 to 8 years, depending on your criminal history.

Tennessee is one of only 5 states that is not a member of the Interstate Driver’s License Compact. The Compact allows states to share driver’s license and traffic offense information between states. Theoretically, Tennessee will not report a DUI conviction to your home state under the Compact.

However, the Compact is not the only way States find out about DUI convictions, and home states often do revoke licenses based on a Tennessee conviction. You should not rely on Tennessee’s non-participation in the compact and think you will keep your home state license if convicted, since that is possible, but unlikely.



We practice regularly in all Sevier County courts (where Gatlinburg and much of the park is), as well as in Knoxville, Knox, Blount, Anderson, Roane, and Loudon Counties. Do not hesitate to call, email or even text us if you have questions or would like to speak with someone about your DUI case.

John Barnes
Attorney, Barnes Law


This article and all materials on this website are for general information purposes only and are not legal. Every case is different. You should contact a lawyer in your jurisdiction if you need legal advice.  

Knox and East Tennessee Court Weather Closings

Its that time of year when we’ll go to bed wondering whether or not courts will be closed tomorrow for snow.  The following information should come in handy.  

The Knoxville Bar Association has put together a comprehensive list of each court in the area’s policy for closing for inclement weather.  If you’re interested in Knox County General Sessions Courts, they follow the Knox County School’s closing decision (but not opening late decisions).

You can find the details on their website at or download the pdf here: 2016_Court_Inclement_Weather_Policies-_Updated

DUI Second Offense

Unfortunately, if you’ve been charged with a DUI second offense, the potential penalties aren’t just twice as bad as a DUI first offense.  The minimum jail time in Tennessee on a DUI second offense is 45 days, versus just 2 days on a DUI first offense.  That’s a 2,250% increase!

The other penalties increase with a second offense as well.  The fine increases to a minimum $600 and the loss of license period increases to 2 years.  Additionally, an alcohol and drug assessment is required and the assessor’s recommendations, no matter how stringent, must be followed.  Add on court costs, increased cost of insurance, and attorney fees and its obvious a second offense DUI is a big deal.

The Good News

Despite the penalties being greater, defending a DUI second in court is very similar to defending a first offense.  That is because if your case gets tried to a jury, the jury won’t know you’ve been convicted before.

Only certain prior offense can “come into evidence” in a trial.  Prosecutors can’t use the fact that you’ve been convicted of a DUI before to prove that you are guilty of a DUI this time.  That’s because a prior conviction is not relevant to the question the jury must answer, “was the defendant impaired while driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle?”

Rehabilitation and Jail Time

Some people who have been charged with DUI second offense have substance abuse problems.  If that is the case, it serves the person charged and the community to get help with his or her addiction.

The law allows for a portion of the jail time imposed on a DUI second offense conviction to be served in an inpatient drug and/or alcohol treatment facility.  However, there are restrictions on how much time can be awarded and other aspects of this program.  Getting a spot in a facility can be difficult and costly, though there are insurance plans and state programs that can help out.

Plea Bargaining

There are times when a DUI second offense can be “reduced” to a DUI first offense.  This usually happens when your attorney can identify strong defenses and convince a prosecutor that there are either good legal and factual reasons or good mitigating personal reasons to reduce the charge.

It is not easy to get a second offense reduced to a first.  Many people think it should be as simple as asking the prosecutor, but at least in Knoxville and East Tennessee, district attorneys take DUI cases seriously, especially multiple offense DUIs.

Whether any particular negotiated agreement is a “good deal” depends on the facts and law of each case.  A reduction to a first offense could be a great result for one client and could also be wisely rejected by another, depending on the circumstances.

Qualifying as a Second Offense

Just because someone has a prior conviction for DUI, does not mean a current charge is a second offense.  In order to qualify as a prior for the purpose of making someone a multiple offender, the most recent conviction had to occur within the past ten years.  If someone has had no DUI convictions in the past ten years, then any current charge should be a first offense.

Also, if the DUI charge was from out of the State of Tennessee, a lawyer will need to examine the other states statute to make sure it qualifies.  He or she should also examine the documentation of any prior judgment of conviction for DUI, since an invalid judgement could be attacked and potentially not count against you.

These are just a few of the considerations when dealing with a DUI second offense charge.  We’d be happy to discuss the specifics of your case.  Just fill out the case evaluation form or give us a call at (865) 999-0294.

Free Legal Services for Those Affected by the Wildfires

Gatlinburg Wildfire Relief
Offering help to our neighbors in Gatlinburg and Sevier County

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the devastating wildfires in Gatlinburg and Sevier County.

In an effort to do our part to help in anyway we can, the Barnes Law Firm is offering free legal services to those individuals and businesses that have suffered.

Over the coming weeks and months our neighbors are likely to face some of the following issues:

  • Landlord/Tenant disputes
  • Home and property insurance claims
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Mortgage difficulties and foreclosures
  • Food benefits and public assistance
  • Family medical leave
  • Home repair conflicts and scams

The Barnes Law Firm is donating its time and resources to those affected. We will work to provide free advice and where necessary, pro bono representation.

For those issues that are outside our legal expertise we will work to put people in touch with other local attorneys that can help.

Please do not hesitate to call and let us know how we can be of service.


John Barnes


(865) 805-5703

Supreme Court to Hear Drug Free School Zone Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court is hearing oral argument this week in State v. Gibson.  In Gibson the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s imposition of the Drug Free School Zone enhancement when the Defendant was convicted for facilitation of a felony cocaine charge.

Facilitation is a lesser included offense of the charged crime. The Defendant’s lawyers are arguing on appeal that the enhancements should not apply to the lesser included offense, but rather, only to the charged offense of possession of more than .5 grams of cocaine.

The Court of Appeals has previously held that “attempt,” also a lesser included offense, does warrant application of the Drug Free School Zone enhancement.  Therefore, the Supreme Court’s decision would likely affect how lawyers and courts handled attempt convictions under the School Zone statute as well.

The Court of Appeals case can be found at State v. Gibson.

Knox County Courts Closed Due to Inclement Weather, January 20th, 2016

View of Oak Ridge Highway in Clinton this morning

Last night the Knox County Courts announced their closing for today, January 20th, 2016.

Yesterday the city salted the highways and main roads, but with our overnight snow, today back roads have accumulated enough snow to make driving hazardous. If you must get out, drive with caution!

There is no word on closings tomorrow, but you can watch the news or check the court website here
for closing information.

Stay Safe this Halloween Weekend! Don’t Drive Intoxicated!

Candles pumpkins

Knoxville is a fun town with a lot going on this Halloween weekend.

With children out trick-or-treating and drivers behind the wheel, the police will be out in droves watching for impaired drivers.

It’s always a better bet to prepare ahead of time- better safe than sorry! You have a few options:

Have a designated driver!

Use a driving service. There are many options, two of which include Zingo and Uber.


Zingo is a local driver service that we found on the AAA website “Sober Ride”. We called and asked more about it and found out from Kathy that you may call (865) 776-3465 to schedule a ride in advance. They will meet you and drive in your car and have a “chase” car follow, that way if you’re out and need a ride home but would like your car home too, they can drive your vehicle for you. The cost for Zingo is based on mileage and is as follows: 0-10 miles, $45; 10-20 miles, $65 miles. They will also make stops for you, say if you need a bite before returning home, for an additional $5 per stop.


Many of you may already be familiar with or Uber at this point, as it has been in Knoxville for over a year. Uber is a transportation network that allows users to connect with drivers via their smartphone app.

Download the app and you can receive a driver to your exact location. You can check out their rates here.  We did and found that from Downtown Grill and Brewery to our office at 5401 Kingston Pike in Bearden (about 7 miles), the fare will run between $13 and $26. Not bad- and a heck of a lot cheaper than a DUI! Safer too!

The Barnes Law Firm, is dedicated to DUI defense, but of course we always promote safe driving! Have fun this weekend and stay safe, Knoxville!

Tennessee Scraps $800,000+ Drunk Driving Ad Campaign

Tennessee’s Highway Safety Office has apologized for an anti drunk-driving campaign after getting backlash that it was offensive and sexist.

(Photo: John Partipilo / The Tennessean)
(Photo: John Partipilo / The Tennessean)

The campaign included fliers and coasters with phrases on them including, “Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl…If this sounds like something you would do, your judgment is impaired…” and “After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember: if your judgment is impaired, so is your driving.”

This tax payer funded campaign was pulled mid-July and made national headlines. According to WBIR, the campaign cost $846k. The apology asserted that no offense was intended.  Tennessee and other states continue to search, without much success, for effective ways to curb drunk driving, but many question whether these taxpayer funded ads benefit anyone other than the companies being paid to create and air the ads.


Special Bond Conditions for Multiple Offense DUIs

Transdermal alcohol monitoring device at the beach.
Transdermal alcohol monitoring device at the beach.

People I meet with often ask how it is that they have to do “probation” after being charged with a second offense DUI when they haven’t yet been convicted. It’s a fair question. DUI defendants, like everyone else charged with a crime, are presumed innocent unless they are proven guilty in court. So why then is it that these second time offenders are meeting with probation officers?

In July of 2011 the legislature enacted a law that required courts to consider special bond conditions for anyone charged with DUI who has previously been convicted of DUI or related alcohol and drug offenses. In such a case the court must consider imposing (and usually will impose):

  • The use of an ignition interlock device
  • The use of transdermal monitoring devices or other alternative alcohol monitoring devices
  • The use of electronic monitoring with random alcohol or drug testing; or
  • Pretrial residency in an in-patient alcohol or drug rehabilitation center.

These bond conditions were designed to protect the public from continued driving under the influence. While they may accomplish that in some circumstances, the blanket use of these conditions can also discourage innocent defendants from going to trial. For instance, it can easily take 18 months to get a DUI case to trial. If a defendant is ordered to wear a transdermal monitoring device as a condition of bond, she will need to pay the $300 per month fee, or $5,400, on just the cost of bond.

Each person’s circumstances are different and courts have wide discretion in imposing bond conditions. Courts can change conditions initially imposed by the magistrate upon release if your lawyer can give the court a good reason to do so. If you are under strict bond conditions, talk to a lawyer who can assess whether those conditions might be lessened.

Tennessee Court Holds DUI Blood Draws Without a Warrant Illegal

The Court of Criminal Appeals recently reaffirmed an earlier decision, finding that when a DUI suspect refuses to give consent to have his blood tested, that the police must get a search warrant prior to a forced blood draw.  Search Warrant

Previously, a state law requiring “mandatory” blood draws, for suspects with a prior offense of who were involved in an accident with injury, had been interpreted to allow police to take the suspect’s blood over his objection, without a warrant.

The Tennessee Court cited the United State Supreme Court decision in Missouri v. McNeely, for the proposition that alcohol leaving the blood stream due to the passage of time is not enough, by itself, to equal “exigent circumstances.”  Without exigent circumstances, or some other established exception (like consent), police must get a search warrant in order to legally take a DUI suspect’s blood.

Read the full opinion here.

Congratulations to fellow Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers member Claiborne Ferguson, of Memphis, on prevailing in both the trial and appellate courts.