Tennessee lawmakers consider barring advertising to drunken driving defendants

Robert Cooper Jr.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline)-Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. will be asked to weigh in on a controversial bill that would bar criminal defense attorneys from advertising their expertise with drunken driving cases, a lawmaker said.

On Tuesday, the provision was tacked onto a bill that would establish an online registry of repeat drunken drivers in the Volunteer State.

The bill is set for a vote by the full Senate.

Already, Tennesseans can look up sex offenders and convicted methamphetamine cooks on state registries. A separate proposal would create an animal cruelty registry on the Internet.

As for the drunken driving registry, Sen. Rosalind Kurita, D-Clarksville, said it is also important to bar attorneys from advertising specifically to drunken driving defendants because prosecutors have a difficult time enough getting convictions for driving under the influence without attorneys offering discounts to fight the charges.

Other proponents say there is no such thing as a drunken driving defense specialty. However, critics say that the plan would violate commercial free speech rights.

Among them is Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis. Kyle said he will seek a legal opinion on the bill from Cooper.

So long as lawyers are meeting ethical standards set by the Tennessee Bar Association, Kyle they should be allowed to advertise their legal qualifications.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

More Stories