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DUI in Tennessee: How much is too much?

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The statutory language in Tennessee for Driving Under the Influence is found in Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-401, et. seq. The above video will provide some basic information regarding DUI in Tennessee, some of which is outlined below.

You can be charged with DUI if your blood alcohol level is 0.08 or higher (or 0.04 or higher for those with a commercial drivers license) or if you are impaired by any intoxicant, drug, or other substance that affects your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving your clearness of mind and control you would otherwise possess.

This means that you could have a blood alcohol level less than 0.08 and still be impaired, and thus violate the DUI statute. Importantly, there is no metric used for other drugs or substances that can impair your ability to drive. This could be a determining factor in your case as many substances take quite some time to be removed from your system.

If you are pulled over by a police officer, you should always be respectful to the officer and remain calm. Do not argue at the scene. Let your attorney argue in court. You always have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions without your attorney. How you decide to do this is up to you. Simply yelling "I have the right to remain silent" does not mean you will get off scott-free, and will often exacerbate your situation. Know your rights and relax.

During a traffic stop, refusing to provide your identity could lead to your arrest if the officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over. Providing your drivers license and proof of insurance is usually all you need to do in this scenario. However, during a DUI checkpoint the police are allowed to stop and ask you questions (the scope and duration of which has its limits). In either case, you never have to answer an officer's questions such as "How much have you had to drink tonight?" or "Is there anything illegal in the car?" or "Do you know why I pulled you over?" Never give any admission to the officer, and never consent to a search of your vehicle. If the officer is asking to search your car, he or she doesn't have the present ability to perform a search or else they would have done it. You have the right to say no.

You can refuse to perform a field sobriety test if asked. You can refuse to submit to a breathalyzer of blood test, however there are some narrow exceptions to this. Refusing to submit to this test will result in the revocation of your drivers license for 1 year under the Implied Consent statute (Tenn. Code Ann. section 55-10-406).

If you plead or are found guilty of DUI there are mandatory minimums under the law. These include:

  • 48 hours to be served in jail
  • 11 months and 29 days supervised probation
  • 24 hours community service
  • $350 fine
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program
  • Revocation of drivers license for 1 year
  • Restitution if any person or property damaged

The Judge could also order you to have an interlock device in your car or ankle bracelet during your probation period. There will also be probation fees and court costs.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, there are other potential repurcussions that can affect your ability to naturalize, to renew your permanent residency, to obtain or renew your visa, or to receive other immigration benefits such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

You cannot get a DUI conviction expunged. A DUI conviction could affect your job, child custody, and your ability to carry a firearm. Therefore it is important to have a competent lawyer assess your case from the beginning to ensure your rights are being upheld. If you have questions regarding DUI or need representation in court, hire an experienced and qualified attorney.

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