Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The End of Briley Parkway?

Thanks for A.C. over at Volunteer Voters for posting the videos of the sobriety tests and subsequent arrest of Rep. Rob Briley (D - Nashville) on YouTube. The videos are below.

I've seen my share of these police cruiser videos, and here are a few of my thoughts on the videos in no particular order.

1) Before we convict Briley, it should be noted that these videos don't show his handling of the vehicle prior to the field sobriety tests. I note that because Briley's defense attorney is going to have to rely on an argument that the officers did not have probable cause to stop Briley. That got a bit easier under the Tennessee Supreme Court's decision in State v. Binette, a case from a few months ago that has effectively made it a bit easier to get videos suppressed of weaving cars as a pretext for DUI stops. Of course, as has been pointed out over the past few days, Briley likely bungled into a defense - that his actions were caused by medications. You might be able to sell that to a jury, but I sure wouldn't want a judge to hear it.

2) Briley's behavior, language, and emotional outbursts are quite exceptional. This is not really your average DUI tape in that regard. It might be more along the lines of evidence offered in a mental commitment hearing, but not your normal criminal case.

3) As I commented yesterday over at Volunteer Voters, Briley's big problem legally isn't the DUI or the obvious violation of the Implied Consent law. The punishments for those are quite light. Where Briley really messed up was with the destruction of the police cruiser window. Depending on how much damage the prosecution can prove was done to the cruiser (between $500 to $1,000 or damage greater than $1,000), Briley is looking at either a Class E felony (which carries between 1 to 2 years in jail and a $3,000 fine) or a Class D felony (which carries between 2 to 4 years in jail and a $5,000 fine). With the DUI, you're talking about a number of hours in jail. With the vandalism charge, we're talking years. Any defense attorney worth his salt should be able to strike a deal for probation or diversion instead of jail time in regards to the vandalism charge, but the time Briley would be on probation is substantial.

4) With the above, I noted that this is dealing with Briley's legal problems. Briley's political and personal problems are a whole other matter. His political career is in ruins. I hope that the same can't be said for his personal life.

5) Since I am a fan of full disclosure, I have to say thank goodness for YouTube. In the past, Jimmy Naifeh would have made sure this was swept under the rug. That isn't the case in this age of technology.

6) Finally, the time of day may influence the prosecutors in this case and how hard they decide to push the case. In my experience, it is one thing to be caught drunk on a deserted country road at 3 A.M. It's a whole other thing to be caught driving impaired at rush hour in the city.

Just a few thoughts and gut reactions. Why I despise what Rob Briley has done as a legislator to limit the rights of Tennesseans to defend themselves, that does not mean that I am not sympathetic to the circumstances that get one to the point we see in the videos. It's sad, really.

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Rob: The evading arrest by use of a motor vehicle is a class E felony, possibly class D (due to potential harm to others). The in-car video will be very important, as will the radio traffic from all agencies involved, and witness statements.
David -

From what I am hearing, Briley may have to worry about a felony evading arrest charge, which, as you state, would be of the Class D variety. If the prosecutors so advise, he could also be looking at multiple counts of reckless endangerment, as well - one for each person/automobile that he nearly contacted during the pursuit. These can add up quickly.

One thing to remember, though, is that deals struck early on can often reduce many of these additional charges from being brought. Briley has many friends on the Democratic side of the aisle, and I am sure that he will have more-than-competent representation.


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