DUI in Tennessee: Charges, penalties and potential defenses

A DUI ticket in Tennessee can translate to criminal and civil penalties. Having a basic understanding of the penalties and defenses available can help a driver protect his or her rights.

A ticket for driving under the influence of alcohol, or DUI, can have broad implications. If the charges become a conviction, the driver will face not only immediate criminal penalties but also longstanding civil penalties. These include the social stigma tied to the presence of a criminal record. This often translates to difficulties finding a job, employment and getting scholarships.

Those who receive a ticket can fight the charges. In order to determine the best course of action, it is wise to first understand what the criminal implications are.

DUI law in Tennessee

A conviction for a DUI can come with serious criminal penalties, including:

  • First offense. A first conviction can result in a driver's license revocation for one year and a fine ranging from $350 to $1,500.
  • Second offense. A second conviction can come with a license revocation for two years and a fine ranging from $600 to $3,500.
  • Third offense. This conviction could translate to a license revocation of 6 to 10 years and a fine of $1,100 to $10,000.
  • Fourth offense. This offense is a felony. It comes with a minimum 150 days jail time and a fine ranging from $3,000 to $15,000. License revocation lasts for eight years.

It is important to note that prison time can accompany any of these offenses, depending on the details of the charges. A conviction can also result in mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, participation in a drug and alcohol treatment program and vehicle seizure. The severity of penalties can increase in certain circumstances including the presence of a child in the vehicle, a blood alcohol content of 0.20 or over or if an accident occurs.

Defenses available

Getting a ticket does not translate into criminal penalties. Before these penalties apply the charges must become a conviction. There are a variety of defenses available to help fight these charges. In order to build a defense, an attorney generally reviews these two components:

  • Stop. For a charge to stand, the stop made by the enforcement officer must be legal. Police need to follow proper protocol when deciding to make a stop and a violation could result in what is referred to as an improper stop. One of the first things a criminal defense attorney will likely review is whether or not the officer had probable cause to make the stop. If probably cause is lacking, the stop is likely improper. In these instances, the evidence will generally not be allowed in court. This can lead to a dismissal or reduction of charges.
  • Evidence. The next thing reviewed is the evidence gathered to support the charges. Evidence from a Breathalyzer test, for example, must be gathered through proper administration of the device and the device must be in proper working order.

Putting together these components into a strong and effective defense can be difficult. Those who face these charges are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will gather information for your case and fight for your rights, better ensuring a more positive outcome.

Keywords: DUI