DUI – Driving Under The Influence In Tennessee
Mr. McKellar has been selected as a member of “America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys” in 2019.
The crime of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is unique in that you can be found guilty based solely on the results of a chemical test or a police officer’s impressions. DUI charges are also often some of the most complicated criminal cases because of the relationship between the legal charge and the scientific evidence (i.e. blood tests and breathalyzers). Due to these complexities, as well as the severe penalties involved with a conviction, it is important to ensure that your rights are protected by an attorney when charged with DUI.
Driving Under the Influence
Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-401 prohibits two different behaviors that amount to driving under the influence. The most well-known, of course, is driving a vehicle while having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher (.04% if it is a commercial vehicle). The statute also prohibits, though, driving a vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicant that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle and deprives the driver of the clearness of mind and control of oneself that the driver would otherwise possess. Therefore, the crime of DUI expands much further than simply driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving under the effect of any intoxicating substance (including legally obtained prescription drugs) that influences one’s ability to operate a vehicle can lead to a DUI charge.
Another unique aspect of DUI law in Tennessee is that each subsequent offense carries a new mandatory minimum sentence. The table below outlines the jail time, monetary fine, license suspension, and other penalties that accompany each level of DUI conviction pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated sections 55-10-402, 403, and 404.
|Offense||Jail Time||Monetary Fine||License Suspension||DUI School||Other|
|Min: 48 hours
Max: 11 months, 29 days
|$350 – $1500||1 year||Yes||24 hours litter pickup|
|Min: 45 days
Max: 11 months, 29 days
|$600 – $3500||2 years||Yes||Substance abuse program|
|Min: 120 days
Max: 11 months, 29 days
|$1,100 – $10,000||6 years||Yes||Substance abuse program|
|4th Offense and up
|Min: 150 days
Max: Felony guidelines
|$3,000 – $15,000||8 years||Yes||Felon classification|
These fines and penalties do not even completely encompass the total punishment for a DUI conviction in some cases. Based on other situational factors, a judge may order an ignition interlock device be placed on your car or for you to pay out of pocket for substance abuse treatment. Further, an excessively high BAC can constitute an aggravated charge and increase the minimum jail time. In addition to these fines and penalties, a person who commits DUI with a minor child (under 18 years old) in the car will also be subject to an additional 30 days incarceration and another $1,000 in fines. A DUI conviction can clearly have a major effect on your life and your finances.
Another closely related aspect of DUI in Tennessee is the implied consent statute. Per Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-406, everyone who drives a vehicle in Tennessee impliedly consents to submitting to both a breathalyzer test and to a blood test when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that DUI has been committed. According to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-407, refusing to submit to either test when properly requested carries a penalty of license suspension starting at one year and increasing based on other factors such as prior convictions, prior license suspension, and injury caused to other drivers. However, the police officer must make the driver aware that refusal to consent to the tests will result in license suspension. Failure by the arresting officer to do so will prevent the driver’s license from being suspended.
Other charges may stem from a DUI, as well, with many of these charges being felonies. For example, causing bodily injury to another person as a result of driving while intoxicated may lead to a vehicular assault charge. This charge is a Class D felony carrying a minimum 48 hours in jail but also a potential two to twelve years in jail. If another person is killed by an intoxicated driver, the penalties are even steeper. A vehicular homicide committed while intoxicated is a Class B felony which carries up to 30 years in jail.
Contact Our Firm
As demonstrated by the information above, the effects of a DUI conviction in Tennessee can be severe. Not only is jail time mandatory for any DUI conviction, but you will also face fines, DUI school, the loss of driving privileges and other sanctions. It is important to ensure that your rights or the rights of a loved one are protected by an attorney.
If you have been charged with DUI in Tennessee, call the lawyers at McKellar & Easter, Attorneys at Law. We will support you throughout the entire process and advocate on your behalf for the best possible result. Call 865-566-0125 or send us an email to make an appointment at our Knoxville, Tennessee office.
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