Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in the state of Tennessee. Given that drunk driving has been a leading cause of accidents and deaths in Tennessee, the state pursues such cases aggressively. Tennessee has put in place some of the most strict DUI laws in the country. Offenders can face severe penalties, regardless of the severity of their offense. From lengthy jail terms and hefty fines to license suspension, permanent criminal records, and other forms of punishment deemed fit.
Being arrested and getting charged with a DUI can be very stressful, especially when you aren’t familiar with DUI laws and the criminal justice system. It might seem like the end of the world for you. However, an experienced Franklin DUI defense lawyer from Nash Law can help mount a solid defense and convince the prosecution to lower or drop your charges, help prevent the suspension of your license, and even get you acquitted of the charge.
Our attorneys will ensure that your rights are protected, determine whether the due process was followed, and take the necessary steps to help minimize any potential negative consequences. Keep in mind that testing devices are always prone to errors and improper actions by the police can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case. Your Franklin DUI defense lawyer will explore all available defenses and help secure the most favorable outcome for you.
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What Is the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) Limit in Tennessee?
In the state of Tennessee, drivers above the age of 21 aren’t allowed to operate a vehicle on any public road with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. .08% is considered the tipping point between safe and not safe to drive. However, you should note that the police can still arrest you and charge you with DUI even with a BAC below the legal limit of .08% if they believe that you are unfit to operate the vehicle due to your level of intoxication.
For drivers below the age of 21, the blood alcohol content limit is set at .02%. Drivers licensed to operate commercial vehicles are not allowed to operate their vehicles with a blood alcohol content of .04% or higher.
What Penalties Can I Face for a DUI in Tennessee?
There are severe consequences for DUI offenders in the state of Tennessee. If you’ve been caught drinking and driving, here are some of the things you can expect upon conviction.
Tennessee classifies a DUI as a Class A misdemeanor charge. A first conviction carries a minimum prison sentence of 48 hours, which can go up to 11 months and 29 days, and a fine ranging between $350 and $1,500. If the offender has a BAC of .20% or above, the minimum jail term is set at 7 days.
A first conviction also comes with a one-year license revocation with the availability of a restricted license.
You will also be required to attend an alcohol and drug treatment program.
Second-time offenders face a minimum of 45 days in jail, which can be up to 11 months and 29 days, a mandatory fine from $600 to $3,500. Your license can also be revoked for 2 years but with the availability of a restricted license.
Second-time offenders can also have their vehicles seized. As a second-time offender, you will also be required to attend an alcohol and drug treatment program.
Third-time offenders face a minimum of 120 days and a maximum of 11 months and 29 days in jail and a mandatory $1,100 – $10,000 fine. Your license will also be revoked for 6 years. Eligibility for a restricted license will be dependent on you installing an ignition interlock device.
For your third-time offense, you will also be subject to vehicle seizure/forfeiture. Third-time offenders are also required to attend a mandatory alcohol and drug treatment program.
A fourth and subsequent DUI is classified as a Class E Felony and it carries a minimum jail term of 365 days with a $3,000 – $15,000 mandatory fine. A fourth and subsequent conviction comes an 8-year license revocation with the availability of a restricted license.
You will also have to attend a court-ordered alcohol and drug treatment program. Fourth and subsequent offenders are subject to vehicle seizures. Upon reinstatement, you will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device at your own expense.
Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Tennessee?
All states, including Tennessee, have what is known as the Implied Consent Law. Under this law, once you acquire your driver’s license, you automatically give consent to submitting your blood, breath, or urine, for chemical testing upon the request of a police officer.
However, what is important to note is that this law doesn’t apply to the roadside breathalyzer and field sobriety tests done when you are stopped by the police. These are just conducted to provide more proof to the police that you are intoxicated. You aren’t obligated to complete these tests, but refusing to take them gives the police grounds to arrest on suspicion of drunk driving.
Once you are under arrest or in police custody, you become subject to the implied consent law. A police officer will ask you to submit your blood or breath for blood alcohol testing. While the officer can’t force you to take the test, there are penalties for not taking the test in this scenario. Violating the imposed consent law is classified as a Class A Misdemeanor.
Here are the penalties for refusing to take a BAC test while in police custody:
- A one-year license suspension for your first offense
- A two-year license suspension for a second or subsequent offense
- A two-year license suspension if the incident involved an accident that resulted in serious injuries
- A five-year license suspension if the incident involved a fatal accident.
You should note that the penalties for refusing to take the test are separate from the penalties resulting from a DUI conviction. Thus, if you are found guilty of driving under the influence, your penalties will add up.
What Is a Felony DUI in Tennessee?
In the state of Tennessee, a DUI is considered a felony in cases where the motorist committed any of the following offenses:
Vehicular Assault (Causes a Serious Injury in an Accident)
Vehicular assault is classified as a Class D Felony which carries a minimum jail term of two years but can be up to 12 years, in addition to fines and court costs.
It also comes with a one to five-year license revocation depending on the number of previous offenses. Offenders aren’t eligible for a restricted license.
Vehicular Homicide (Causes Death of Another Person)
Vehicular homicide is classified as a Class B Felony. It is punishable by a minimum of three years in jail and a license suspension of 3 – 10 years. Offenders aren’t eligible for a restricted license.
Child Endangerment (Committing a DUI Offense With a Passenger under 18)
This is classified as a Class D Felony if the minor suffers serious injuries. It is punishable by a minimum jail term of 2 years and 12 years maximum.
If the minor is killed, it is considered a Class B Felony. It is punishable by a jail term of 8 to 30 years depending on the criminal history of the defendant.
Other Felony DUI Offenses
A DUI is also a felony if:
- It causes serious property damage in an accident
- The offender has three or more previous DUI convictions. A fourth ad subsequent conviction is considered a Class E Felony.
Common Defenses in DUI cases
When you are facing a DUI charge, there are a number of effective strategies that your attorney can use to mount a strong defense. Even when there is evidence to support the charge, there are a number of avenues that can be explored and exploited to beat the case. Here are some common ways to fight a DUI charge in Tennessee:
Lack of Probable Cause for the Stop
As per the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have a right to protection against any unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures. In this regard, the police officer needs to have probable cause to make the initial stop, investigate you for DUI, and eventually arrest you and detain you. If you can prove that arresting officer didn’t have clear, articulable reasons for what they did, then you can have the charges against you dropped.
Challenging Accuracy of Tests
Law enforcement agencies utilize a variety of tools to determine a suspect’s blood alcohol content. However, the accuracy of these devices is not always guaranteed. In addition, human error can interfere with the accuracy of the results. There are state-specified requirements as to how BAC tests should be administered, and how the devices used should be calibrated and maintained. If you can prove that these requirements weren’t met, the tools were defective or the technician wasn’t competent enough, you can have the test results dismissed.
How Can a Franklin DUI Defense Lawyer Help Me?
A DUI conviction can significantly impact your freedom, future, and career prospects. If you’ve been charged with DUI, your best chances of having your charges dropped or effectively reduced and suffering minimum consequences lie with you hiring a skilled DUI defense attorney. Here are some of the things that an attorney does to help your case:
Investigating Your Arrest
Your attorney will start by reviewing the arrest reports to determine whether due process was followed. If the arresting officer didn’t have probable cause to stop your vehicle or didn’t follow the proper legal procedure when arresting you, this is enough to have your case dismissed. If the officer failed to provide adequate information on the consequences of certain acts such as failing to take a BAC test, any additional charges pertaining to this will be dismissed.
Reviewing the Test Results
Your attorney will also seek to find out whether all requirements were satisfied during the testing process and whether there are flaws in the test results. For instance, if the tools used weren’t properly maintained according to the required standards, they may produce inaccurate results. In addition, an individual’s blood alcohol content tends to rise naturally with time. Thus, if the tests were done some time after the arrest, the results may show levels higher than the legal limit. All these are factors that can make the test results inadmissible in court.
A majority of criminal cases end in plea bargains. Not only do plea bargains help to ease the burden for prosecutors and court systems, but they also often mean lesser charges and penalties for the defendants and even the dismissal of charges. However, negotiating with the prosecutor on your own can be incredibly intimidating and difficult. By presenting solid facts and evidence during the negotiations, an attorney can help weaken the prosecution’s case and secure an even better deal than you expected.
Let a Professional Franklin DUI Defense Lawyer Defend Your Rights!
A DUI charge is something that you need to take very seriously. The thought of losing your license and freedom, incurring hefty fines, and jeopardizing your future and career can be very scary. It can be easy to get a DUI conviction without a proper plan of action. On the other hand, with a proper and comprehensive defense strategy, you can effectively fight the DUI charge.
This is what you get a Franklin DUI Defense Lawyer from Nash Law. While the outright dismissal of charges can’t be guaranteed in all cases, we assure you of the best possible outcome in your specific case. Call us today at 615-544-6096 for a free evaluation of your case.