“Stay alive, don’t drink and drive.” “Booze It and Lose It.” “Drive Hammered, Get Slammered.”
We’ve all seen these slogans when driving down the highways. These familiar adages that confront us in blinking images on the Interstate can be very accurate. That’s because a criminal conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) carries serious and severe legal and other ramifications in Tennessee. Those convicted of a DUI can suffer both direct criminal
consequences and equally harmful collateral consequences in their lives. They can lose their freedom, their jobs, and their dignity.
That’s why it’s important that you find a good criminal defense lawyer to help you through the process.
It is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any
automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the state, or on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park, or apartment house complex, or any other premises that is generally frequented by the public at large, while:
(1) Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance,
controlled substance analogue, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system, or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of oneself that the driver would otherwise possess;
(2) The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (0.08%) or more; or
(3) With a blood alcohol concentration of four-hundredths of one percent (0.04%) or more and the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle …
A person convicted of a first offense DUI can be jailed, fined, ordered to attend a substance abuse prevention program, be subjected to a form of monitoring, or have their drivers’ license suspended or revoked. The vast majority of persons convicted of a DUI suffer lasting consequences. A judge also has the ability to require you to perform 200 hours of public service work. You also may have to pay restitution to any person injured as a result of your drunk driving.
A person convicted of a DUI for a first time has to serve at least 48 hours in jail and may have to serve up to 11 months and 29 years. Such a deprivation of individual liberty is devastating to most people, particularly those not accustomed to the criminal justice system.
Perhaps most significantly for most first-time offenders, a first-time DUI offense requires a court in Tennessee to prohibit a person from driving for one year. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-404. Losing one’s driving license for a year is an incredible burden to carry and overcome. The penalties get progressively worse with more DUI convictions.
As mentioned, the collateral consequences can be severe too. Some people could lose their jobs with a DUI conviction. Others face the stigma and shame of having their name in a public arrest database.
Because the consequences of a DUI conviction are so severe, a person facing DUI charges needs to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who has experience with police procedure, search and seizure law, negotiation skills with prosecutors, the ability to cross-examine police officers, and related concepts.
An experienced attorney may be able to contest the legality of the police stop of your automobile. The police must have a legitimate reason to pull over your vehicle. For example, the police can pull over your vehicle if you have a headlight out or if you are weaving outside of your traffic lane. They cannot stop just because they have a “hunch” or there is a remote possibility that you might be driving in an impaired fashion. Individuals do have privacy protections under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution. Otherwise we would live in a dragnet or police state.
An experienced attorney may be able to negotiate a good plea deal with the prosecution, particularly if you have a good driving record and have never been in trouble before. In some counties, the charge may be able to be plead down to a charge of reckless driving or another traffic offense. There is no guarantee but it helps to have an attorney who has excellent negotiating skills.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Nashville, be sure to contact a good attorney for your defense.