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You enjoyed your night on the town with your friends, catching up and making jokes. The talks took you back to the good ole days, remembering all the fun you had growing up together. After a few hours of drinks and discussions, you realize it’s time to head home. You know your “limit,” and you think you are good to drive home. Should be simple, right?
Then, blue lights in the rearview. Normal traffic stop, right? No, this one is life-changing.
Driving under the influence, by law, is a misdemeanor in the state of Tennessee. However, DUIs are typically prosecuted with more force and swifter action than most misdemeanors. The crime is a serious offense that places all others on the road in danger. In fact, drunk driving is the number one killer on Tennesee's roads and has been since 2012.
Drunk Driving Statistics in Tennessee
Drunk Driving in 2018
- 5,783 alcohol-impaired crashes
- Crashes by County
- 690 - Davidson County
- 458 - Shelby County
- 362 - Knox County
- 406 - Hamilton County
- 357 - Rutherford County
Drunk Driving in 2017
- 6,102 alcohol-impaired crashes
- Crashes by County
- 723 - Davidson County
- 508 - Shelby County
- 419 - Knox County
- 382 - Hamilton County
- 358 - Rutherford County
- 190 fatalities in alcohol-impaired crashes
- Fatalities by County
- 17 - Shelby County
- 16 - Davidson County
- 8 - Hancock County
- 8 - Knox County
- 6 - Rutherford County
Drunk Driving in 2016
- 6,294 alcohol-impaired crashes
- Crashes by County
- 715 - Davidson County
- 569 - Shelby County
- 406 - Knox County
- 399 - Rutherford County
- 353 - Hamilton County
- 218 fatalities in alcohol-impaired crashes
- Fatalities by County
- 24 - Shelby County
- 21 - Davidson County
- 14 - Knox County
- 11 - Hamilton County
- 9 - Rutherford County
[Source: Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security]
Often, our team answers all types of questions related to DUIs – length of sentencing, likelihood of jail time, details on penalties, legality of stop, and more. If you have a question, we know the answer.
Recognize that if you have been charged with a DUI, we strongly advise hiring a DUI lawyer to represent you in your coming case. To be fairly represented in an DUI case – no matter if it’s your first offense or if you’re a repeat offender – you need an experienced, trained lawyer who clearly understands the laws and the court system.
The Chiozza Law Firm has years of experience as Memphis DUI lawyers and are ready to represent you.
What’s the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Tennessee?
Tennessee states that driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level over 0.08 percent is considered driving under the influence.
However, you may be subject to DUI penalties without going over the 0.08 percent BAC level when taking in other considerations of your offense. Each case is unique in the court of law.
What are the standard DUI field sobriety tests?
There are three standard field sobriety tests that officers in Tennessee and across the country use to help determine probable cause for drunk driving.
The three tests are the following:
1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The officer asks you to watch a finger or pen as it moves. You are asked to follow only with your eyes and not your head.
If you are unable to follow the motion or your eyes begin to twitch, you give an indication that you are intoxicated.
2. Walk-and-Turn Test
The officer instructs you to move forward nine steps in a straight line, touching heel-to-toe on each step. You must turn appropriately, then repeat the steps in the opposite direction.
Specifically, the officer is testing your ability to balance and follow instructions. With detailed guidelines paired with a focus on balance, intoxicated drivers may struggle to perform well.
3. One-Leg Stand Test
The officer instructs you to stand on one foot while lifting the other foot six inches off the ground. Then, you count to 30 out loud.
Here, the officer is testing your ability to balance and your endurance. If you lift your arms, put your foot down, or are unable to count to thirty (30), you show signs of intoxication.
Do you have to perform a field sobriety test?
No, you are not legally required to perform any field sobriety test in Tennessee. If you refuse to perform these tests, the officer questioning you may place you under arrest. Unsurprisingly, if you are being asked to take these tests, the officer is likely to arrest you following the tests anyway.
If you feel you were wrongly treated during your field sobriety tests or if the officer forced you out of your rights, contact us at Chiozza Law Firm. Our team is happy to look into your case.
What happens on a first offense DUI?
If you are found guilty of or plead guilty to a first-offense DUI, you could face the following penalties under Tennessee law:
Mandatory minimum of forty-eight (48) hours in jail
- 11 months, 29 days suspended sentence
- 11 months, 29 days supervised probation
- $350 fine, plus court costs
- 24 hours of community service
- Loss of driver's license for one year
- Alcohol safety school
- Ignition interlock device installed if BAC >.20
Note that other factors regarding your specific arrest may factor into your penalties. For instance, if your first-offense DUI came as a result of a car wreck or if you injured a victim, you could receive harsher, more stringent penalties.
Will I have to go to jail?
Yes, you do face a minimum of forty-eight (48) hours in jail if you are found guilty of or plead guilty to a DUI. It’s unavoidable.
If your BAC level was at or more than 0.20 percent, you could face seven (7) days in jail.
Can I refuse to take a BAC test?
While you can refuse to take the test to determine your BAC, we highly recommend that you perform the test. Why? Your license will be revoked otherwise, and your refusal will be used against you in court.
Under Tennessee law, you are required to perform a BAC test once you are under arrest for a DUI. Since your arrest means that you displayed probable cause for driving under the influence, Tennessee’s implied consent law states that you consent to taking one of the BAC tests – blood, breath or urine. The officer must state that failure to comply with the test will result in getting your license revoked.
For a first-time offense, refusal to take a BAC test results in a one-year suspension of your license. However, the length of suspension can vary based on the details of the arrest. For a second-time offense, the license suspension is two years.
Simply put: if you are in this situation, take the BAC test.
Is my DUI on my permanent record?
Yes, if you are found guilty of or plead guilty to a DUI, the crime lives on your record for 10 years in the state of Tennessee. If you have prior DUI convictions, those are counted against you if you face another DUI offense.
What happens for an underage DUI?
The state of Tennessee is incredibly strict with underage drinking and driving. If you are under the age of 21 and are found to have a BAC level of 0.02 percent while driving, the officer can arrest you for a DUI.
Yes, you may not be legally drunk under the normal BAC legal level, but you are underage, which is why the arrest is made despite a lower BAC level. For underage offenders in Tennessee, you receive the following penalties:
- License revoked for one year
- $250 fine
- Community service
How do I get my driver’s license back after a DUI?
Once you have completed the duration of your penalties, you do not automatically get your driver’s license reinstated. You must go through the proper steps with the Tennessee Department of Safety.
Like many aspects of a DUI arrest, each case is unique and warrants its own timeline. However, the majority of DUI arrests involve the following steps to reinstate your license:
- Enroll in and complete a drug and alcohol treatment program
- Show proof of car insurance with an SR-22
- Pay Tennessee Department of Safety fees
- Provide driver’s license application fees
- Pass driver’s license testing
Involvement is an DUI case is stressful, time-consuming, and life-altering. You do not want to tackle the case alone. If you need proper representation for your DUI charge in Tennessee, contact the Memphis DUI lawyers at The Chiozza Law Firm. We have the expertise and experience to partner with you through the process.
Feel free to call our team at 901-526-9494 or send us a message about your case. Let us assist you every step of the way.
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