Pre-Trial Detention in DUI Case Not “Punishment”

November 4, 2013

In March 2009, Nicholas Larsen was in a traffic accident and was issued misdemeanor citations for DUI and reckless driving.  He was transported to a hospital for treatment of his injuries. Larsen then reported to the jail a few weeks later. Larsen appeared before the general sessions court, where he was taken into custody, and his bond was set at $1000.  This was consistent with court policy for a minimum bond amount in DUI cases.  Larsen’s case was subsequently bound over to the grand jury, who issued an indictment charging him with DUI, DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more, and reckless driving. Larsen entered a guilty plea to DUI.

Larsen filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, alleging that the time he spent in custody prior to posting the $1000 bond violated his double jeopardy protections.  He claimed that the purpose of the detention was punitive rather than remedial. He also alleged that the trial court’s policy of requiring a minimum $1000 bond in all DUI cases was unconstitutional and conflicted with the Release from Custody and Bail Reform Act of 1978.

During the hearing on the motion to dismiss the indictment, Larsen stated that he was incarcerated for 24 hours prior to posting his bond. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court in denying the motion, held that the fact that Larsen was required to post a $1000 bond after previously being released on a misdemeanor citation did not violate double jeopardy protections and was “not a bar to prosecution.”

On appeal, Larsen claimed that his pretrial detention did not serve the remedial purpose of detoxification because it took place 17 days after he allegedly committed the offense and didn’t serve the remedial purpose of assuring his presence at trial because the policy, which imposed confinement and a minimum bond of $1000 for DUI, violated the Bail Reform Act requiring that “[b]ail be set as low as the court determines is necessary to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required.” Larsen also argued that the policy of setting a minimum $1000 bond in all DUI cases was unconstitutional.

Judge Camille R. McMullen of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson wrote the opinion in this case.  The judge explained that double jeopardy violations arise only when an individual is placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense. Typically, she said, in jury proceedings, jeopardy attaches when the jury is sworn.  In non-jury proceedings, it attaches when the first witness testifies. In addition, Judge McMullen explained that it was well established that jeopardy does not attach in preliminary pretrial proceedings. The defendant must be “subject to ‘criminal prosecution’ and put to trial.” The proceeding must be “essentially criminal” and constitute an action “intended to authorize criminal punishment to vindicate public justice.”

Detention that is remedial, rather than punitive, does not implicate the Double Jeopardy Clause, the judge wrote.  Moreover, “[p]re-trial detention in order to ‘assure a defendant’s presence at trial’ is a legitimate remedial purpose.”  In Doe v. Norris, the Tennessee Supreme Court established guidelines for determining whether confinement is punishment:

In determining whether the confinement involved … is punishment, this Court must decide whether the confinement is imposed for the purpose of punishment or whether it is an incident of a legitimate governmental purpose. Where, as here, no showing of an express intent to punish is made, “that determination generally will turn on ‘whether an alternative purpose to which [the restriction] may rationally be connected is assignable for it, and whether it appears excessive in relation to the alternative purpose assigned.’

Judge McMullen held that Larsen’s detention resulted from a pretrial bond proceeding and that jeopardy didn’t attach at the time of his detention. McMullen  and the rest of the Court of Appeals did not believe that Larsen’s 24-hour detention, which followed the immediate setting of his $1000 bond after he was taken into custody, was an “essential criminal” proceeding “intended to authorize criminal punishment to vindicate public justice.”

Because there was no showing of an express intent to punish, Judge McMullen stated that the following are considered in determining whether Larsen’s detention is punishment:

(1) whether the pretrial detention served an alternative purpose, and if so,

(2) whether the pretrial detention was excessive in relation to the alternative purpose.

The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that Larsen’s detention served the alternative purpose of assuring his presence in court proceedings in his case.  In addition, it concluded that his detention was not excessive in relation to this alternative purpose. Larsen failed to make an arguable showing that his pretrial detention qualified as punishment. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Larsen’s motion to dismiss the indictment.

State v. Larsen, Slip Copy, 2013 WL 118663 (Tenn.Crim.App. Jan. 9, 2013)


Questions about DUI’s, pre-trial hearings, or other issues in a criminal case?

Kevin Patterson has been providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout the greater Memphis area since 1983.  Kevin will treat your legal issue with the dedicated service and attention it deserves. Call Kevin at (901) 300-4820 or e-mail him at to talk to him about your legal matter.

Previous post:

Next post: