Using The Law To Make Your Life Better

Tennessee DUI 101: Knowing What You're Up Against

David Sexton

srpthumb-p6787-450x260-no.jpgDid you know that if you are driving a motor vehicle in Tennessee you have implicitly consented to give a blood, breath, or urine test if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe you are driving under the influence?  This is because of the Tennessee Implied Consent Statute, § 55-10-406.  This statute provides law enforcement officers discretion to administer testing to determine whether you have been drinking, solely because you are driving.  While an officer needs "probably cause" to administer the test, this is typically not a difficult hurtle to overcome.  Refusal to submit to the testing will often result in a suspension of your driver's license, among other consequences, including jail time.

In Tennessee, it is unlawful for any person over the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration (known as BAC) at or exceeding .08%.  This limit is reduced to .04% for commercial drivers, such as bus drivers.  Further, if any person under 21 has a BAC of .02% while driving, that person can be found to have committed a DUI, even if the person does not feel "drunk."  This is a pretty low threshold and a person under 21 could find themselves facing DUI charges after only one beer, depending on the circumstances.  This is because of Tennessee's Zero Tolerance policy for all persons under the age of 21.  These harsh laws could find a good person in a bad situation very quickly.

How can you be sure you are not driving with a BAC above .08% (for non-commercial drivers over the age of 21)? The only way to be 100% sure would be avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages before operating a motor vehicle.  Determining the amount of alcohol one must consume to reach .08% depends on many factors, including:

  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Metabolism
  • The types of drinks consumed (liquor, wine, or beer)
  • How much food you eat before, during, and after drinking
  • How quickly or slowly you consume drinks and the time between drinks
  • Medical conditions
  • Prescription medications

If someone is arrested for driving under the influence (also known as driving while intoxicated), the sentence they receive will vary greatly depending on the number of DUIs the person has received, when they received those DUIs, as well as their entire criminal record.  For a first-time DUI conviction, there is mandatory jail time of at least 48 hours, but jail time could be up to 11 months and 29 days.  This minimum jail time increases to 7 consecutive days with a BAC of .20% or higher.  Other possible consequences for a first-time conviction include:

  • License revocation for 1 year
  • A fine of $350 to $1,500
  • Participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program
  • An alcohol and drug addiction treatment fee of $100
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device on your vehicle
  • Other penalties as ordered by the court

These punishments increase for each DUI conviction a person receives.  If a person is convicted of a DUI four or five times, that person will be sentenced as a Class E felon.  This increases the minimum mandatory jail time to 150 consecutive days, but the person can receive the maximum punishment authorized for a Class E felony.

It is critical to hire an attorney who knows the intricacies of the Tennessee Code to defend your DUI charge.  A conviction not only harms your reputation, it can significantly impact your future.  With just one DUI on your record, you may not be able to rent a car, your insurance premiums may rise, and you may not be able to get a job.  A skilled attorney may be able to fight the charges altogether, fight for a plea for lesser charges, or significantly reduce your sentence.   It is important to act fast after an arrest, especially for persons under 21.  Contact us today if you have been arrested and charged with a DUI and let us fight for you.

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