What Are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in Tennessee?

5 Things You Need to Know about Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

What Are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in Tennessee?It can happen to anyone – the decision to drive after a couple of glasses of wine at dinner or a few beers after work. The next thing you know, you’re being pulled over and accused of driving under the influence. In case you do find yourself in that situation, a Murfreesboro DUI defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains five things you need to know about driving under the influence (DUI) in Tennessee.

  1. Random stops are not legal.

    Contrary to what many people think, a law enforcement officer cannot just drive around and randomly pull over vehicles in the hope that one of them will have a driver who is drunk. On the contrary, an officer must have a legal reason to conduct the initial traffic stop. That reason may amount to what is referred to as a “pretextual stop,” but there must be a reason. A pretextual stop is one in which the officer uses a “pretext” for the initial stop and then turns that stop into a DUI investigation. A common example of a pretext is a license plate light that is out.  If the officer did not have a valid legal reason for the initial stop, any evidence obtained during the stop could be declared inadmissible at trial.

  2. You are not required to perform the field sobriety tests.

    During a DUI investigation it is common for the officer to ask a motorist to step out of the vehicle and perform some field sobriety tests (FST). These tests are designed to test a driver’s balance, coordination, and memory. The result of these FSTs are not admissible at trial; however, they may be used to establish probable cause to arrest the motorist. A driver cannot be forced to take the FSTs. Moreover, given the subject nature of the tests, it is often not in a motorist’s best interest to agree to perform them.

  3. There are consequences for refusing a chemical test.

    A motorist who has been arrested and charged with DUI will typically be asked to submit to a chemical test to check for the presence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance in the driver’s system. A chemical test could be conducted using your breath, blood, or urine; however, the most common method used by law enforcement agencies is a breath test. If the arresting officer suspects that the suspect is under the influence of drugs, however, a blood test will be ordered because a breath test cannot detect the presence of anything but alcohol. Blood tests are also used if the suspect was involved in an accident or if the suspect is so intoxicated that he/she cannot perform the breath test. The Tennessee implied consent law effectively says that you have already agreed to submit to a chemical test if you operate a vehicle on the state’s roadways; however, you can still refuse to submit to the test. There will, however, be consequences for your refusal that include a minimum one-year license suspension. This suspension can be imposed even if the underlying DUI charge is dismissed or reduced.

  4. You may qualify for a hardship license following a DUI arrest that allows you to continue driving.

    The status of your driving privileges following an arrest and/or conviction for driving under the influence will depend on several factors such as your history of DUI convictions, whether you refused the chemical test, and your BAC level if you took the test. It may be possible to obtain a hardship license with, or without, the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). If you qualify, a hardship license may allow you to drive:

    • To and from work
    • To and from a court-ordered alcohol safety program
    • To and from school
    • To and from a scheduled interlock monitoring appointment.
  5. You may be able to avoid a conviction

    . Despite how the arresting officer and/or the prosecuting attorney probably made things sound, a conviction is not a foregone conclusion. Before you accept a conviction, consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney. Doing so ensures that you understand your rights and that those rights are protected. It also ensures that any possible defense available in your case are explored, and used if applicable, to prevent a conviction that may have long lasting negative consequences.

Contact a Murfreesboro DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with driving under the influence, it is in your best interest to consult with a Murfreesboro DUI defense attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Dinah Michael