What are examples of enhanced DUI penalties in Tennessee?
Certain circumstances with a DUI conviction will attract enhanced penalties.
Most notably, a judge will apply such penalties if the following occurs with your DUI:
- Serious injury was caused to a person other than yourself: this is a Class D felony with 2-12 years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, and a license revocation for 1-5 years.
- A person was killed due to your actions: this is a Class B felony with 8-30 years in prison, a fine up to $25,000, and license revocation for 3-10 years (with no possibility of a restricted license)
- A person was killed due to your actions AND you have at least two prior DUIs, vehicular assaults, or vehicular homicides or one prior DUI and a BAC of .20: this is a Class A felony with 15-60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
- Child in the car: even first-time offenders will face a minimum jail time of 30 days and a minimum fine of $1,000 – and it will be treated as a felony Class D if the child was injured or a felony Class B if the child was killed.
Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
An Ignition Interlock Device is a type of small breathalyzer fitted to the inside of the car. It locks the engine unless the driver returns a negative reading (i.e., zero alcohol) when they blow into it.
It is effective at preventing people from driving after having consumed any alcohol and is seen as a way for DUI offenders to return to the roads safely.
Judges in Tennessee can order even first-time offenders to fit an IID at their own expense. If you receive two DUI convictions within five years, the IID is mandatory for six months after your license is reinstated.
Commercial drivers in Tennessee face even harsher restrictions than standard drivers when it comes to drink-driving.
Because they often drive oversize vehicles and any collision with another vehicle is likely to be serious, commercial drivers are held to a stricter BAC limit of .04 rather than .08.
A first DUI will result in disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle for at least one year in addition to the other penalties described above. If the load in the commercial vehicle at the time of the DUI was hazardous, the disqualification period is three years.
A subsequent DUI conviction may result in disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle for life.
What is implied consent in Tennessee?
Implied consent relates to requests for blood alcohol tests by the police. While you may refuse a breath test, you may not legally refuse a request to take a blood alcohol test when requested by a police officer in Tennessee.
Doing so can result in the immediate revocation of your driver’s license for one year (first offense), two years (second offense), or two years if the crash resulted in bodily injury even if it is your first offense (five years if a person died).
Tennessee laws have made it very difficult for anyone charged with drink driving to escape punishment without the assistance of a lawyer negotiating with the prosecution or making a convincing case to the judge.
Other alcohol-related crimes in Tennessee
Tennessee’s strict alcohol laws do not only affect drivers. Two other notable offenses commonly prosecuted in the state include:
1. Selling alcohol to minors
In Tennessee, it is a criminal offense for a licensed drinking establishment to sell alcohol to people under the age of 21. Licensees are punishable by a fine of $500 to $1,000 and 30 days to six months in prison for a first offense.
For a second offense, the fine is increased to $3,000 and offenders face a potential one to six years in prison plus the permanent loss of their liquor license.
2. Furnishing alcohol to minors
Furnishing alcohol to minors means supplying a person under the age of 21 with alcohol. It is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in prison, a fine of up to $2,500 (or both) and 100 hours of community service.
What is the dram shop law in Tennessee?
Under the so-called “dram shop law” in Tennessee, a person injured by an intoxicated individual may be able to seek damages from the vendor of the alcohol if:
- The vendor sold alcohol to someone known to be under 21 or “visibly intoxicated,” and
- The consumption of the alcohol was a direct cause of the injury.
For the vendor to be held liable, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the sale of the alcohol was a “proximate cause” of the injuries, which can be challenging.
Should You Plead Guilty Or Fight The DUI Charges?
A DWI/DUI arrest can be overwhelming. Many people experience feelings of guilt and shame and fear their cases are hopeless. They often want to do whatever is necessary to put the incident behind them as quickly as possible.
Before deciding whether to plead guilty or seek a defense, however, there are things to consider. Remember a DWI/DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record FOREVER. In addition to a criminal record, the costs of a conviction may include:
- Increased automobile insurance costs — at least five years in most cases
- Job opportunity implications — many employers will not hire people with alcohol-related driving convictions
- Restricted driving privileges or NO driving privileges
- Harsher penalties for subsequent convictions
- If you’re a college student, disciplinary action by the school
Placing a monetary value on these factors depends on each person’s particular circumstances. In each case, however, the decision to contest the charges or plead guilty should be reached only after careful analysis of the case as well as the potential consequences of a conviction. Quality, experienced legal counsel is essential when making this decision.
Protect Your Rights: Call Houston & Alexander, PLLC
A DUI conviction can leave you with a permanent criminal record that may still have repercussions for your life years into the future.
The experienced DUI/DWI defense attorneys at Houston & Alexander, PLLC can protect your rights and freedoms and defend the charge so that it has the least possible impact on your life.