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Would a blood draw have helped Tata in DUI defense?

There can be many points of uncertainty regarding evidence in drunk driving cases, any of which may become a possible point of leverage in mounting a defense against the charges. That's why you always hear the advice that if you are facing DUI charge you should be contacting an attorney for the protection of your rights.

Readers of this blog who also happen to be Vanderbilt University football fans may be well aware of the DUI case involving assistant coach Vavae Tata. He pleaded guilty to a charge of DUI earlier this month.

He had been accused of drunk driving in connection with an incident last month. The 37-year-old defensive line coach had been accused of crashing a vehicle into two parked cars and fleeing the scene on foot.

When police picked Tata up several blocks away, they claimed that he failed field sobriety tests. The official report says that the breath test he took yielded an estimated blood alcohol level of 0.18 percent. That is well over the legal limit, but the question some legal observers might ask is whether that would have been confirmed by a blood test. Breath test results are notoriously inaccurate and have been known to be debunked by blood tests.

With the closing of this case, the issue of accuracy is now moot. But others might wish to keep the issue in mind if they find themselves facing DUI charges at some point -- though we would not recommend they submit to a blood test without first consulting an attorney.

As part of his plea deal, worked out with the aid of legal representation, Tata saw the charge of leaving the scene dropped. The penalty for the DUI plea is that he has lost his license for the year. He must also take a safety class, pay a $350 fine and perform 24 hours of community service. Possible jail time of nearly a year was suspended, though he is on probation.

Tata reportedly still works at Vanderbilt, but he has been removed from his coaching duties. That may be the toughest penalty of all.

Source: The Tennessean, "Vanderbilt assistant won't coach in 2014 after pleading guilty to DUI," Jeff Lockridge and Brian Haas, March 5, 2014

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