You are probably familiar with the 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) “legal limit” that applies to driving under the influence in Tennessee. What you may not know is that there is a different “legal limit” for underage drivers. In fact, Tennessee has a “zero-tolerance” law that applies to underage drivers. To ensure that you understand the consequences of an underage DUI conviction, a Murfreesboro DUI attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains Tennessee’s zero-tolerance law.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence is governed by Tennessee Code § 55-10-401 which defines the offense as driving a motor vehicle while:
- 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. OR
- The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (.08 %) or more.
For the average motorist, this sets the “legal limit” at 0.08 percent BAC; however, for younger drivers that limit does not apply. Not only do younger drivers face a different BAC standard, but they also face additional penalties if convicted of driving under the influence.
What Is Tennessee’s Zero-Tolerance Law?
Most states have adopted a “zero-tolerance” law that applies to motorists who are under the legal drinking age. Along with being a wise public policy decision, states risk losing crucial federal funding for roads and highways if they do not have such a law in place. In Tennessee, Tennessee Code §55-10-415 governs underage motorists suspected of driving under the influence, reading in pertinent part as follows:
- A person age sixteen (16) or over but under age twenty-one (21) may not drive or be in physical control of an automobile or other motor-driven vehicle while:
- The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood is more than two-hundredths of one percent (0.02%)
- Under the influence of alcohol
- Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system
- Under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug set out in subdivision (a)(1)(C) to a degree that makes the person’s driving ability impaired.
For all practical purposes, the zero-tolerance law makes it a crime for anyone under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with any alcohol in his/her system. The potential criminal penalties for an underage DUI conviction depend on the motorist’s age at the time of the offense, as follows:
- At least 18 years old but not yet 21 years old. Charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable only by a driver’s license suspension of one year and by a fine of ($250) plus to court may impose community service work.
- At least 16 years old but not yet 18 years old. Classified as a delinquent act punishable by a driver’s license suspension of one year and by a fine of ($250) plus to court may impose community service work.
What Is the Juvenile Offender Act?
If an offender is under the age of 18 at the time he/she is charged with driving under the influence, additional penalties may apply pursuant to the Tennessee Juvenile Offender Act. That law requires a judge to enter a “denial of driving privileges” order if a juvenile is convicted of certain delinquent or criminal acts, including driving under the influence. The denial of driving privileges order cannot be rescinded for a minimum of 90 days for a first order and one year for a second or subsequent order. In addition to the court’s authority to deny driving privileges under the Act, the Department of Safety is also directed to suspend the driving privileges of anyone under the age of 18 for one year or until the offender turns 17, whichever is longer, for a first offense and two years or until the offender turns 18, whichever is longer, for a second offense.
Contact a Murfreesboro DUI Attorney
If you or your child have been charged with driving under the influence in violation of the Tennessee zero-tolerance law, it is in your best interest to consult with a Murfreesboro DUI attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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