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Be Aware of Tennessee’s DUI Penalties No Matter the Level of Enforcement

When it comes to drinking and driving, police often step up enforcement measures on the weekends and around holidays. No holiday may better demonstrate the time when police increase the enforcement of drinking and driving laws than New Year's Eve. This recent holiday was a busy one for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, but no matter the season, drivers in Tennessee should be aware of the legal and non-legal ramifications of driving under the influence.

Stepped-up enforcement of drinking and driving laws

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, over this past Christmas and New Year's Eve, state officers made more DUI arrests than last year. The increase in arrests can partly be attributed to ever increasing holiday traffic, increased patrols and a No Refusal program used for the first time this past year.

Under the No Refusal program, police officers and highway patrol officers in Tennessee may obtain search warrants for blood samples from drivers suspected of being under the influence and who refuse breath tests. Therefore, a suspected intoxicated driver who refuses a breath test may still be arrested for DUI. Folks in the Chattanooga area should also be aware that refusing to submit to a blood alcohol content test is a separate offense than driving under the influence and comes with separate penalties in Tennessee.

Potential legal penalties

For refusing to submit to a blood alcohol content exam in Tennessee or for a conviction for first offense DUI, the driver's license of an individual will be revoked for up to one year. The driver's license of an individual convicted of his or her second DUI offense will be revoked for up to two years.

Drivers in Tennessee should also be aware of the legal and non-legal penalties of a DUI offense. A first offense drinking and driving conviction could cost a driver as much as $5,000 or more in total after the costs of fines, towing, bail, court costs, insurance and reinstatement fees.

In Tennessee the legal penalties for a first-time DUI offense are serious and unique. An individual convicted of a first-time DUI offense faces a fine between $350 and $1,500 and at least 48 hours of jail time, DUI school and possibly up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. A convicted first-time offender also faces license revocation, and potentially being required at their own expense to have a vehicle ignition interlock device installed, participation in drug and alcohol treatment, and restitution to anyone who suffered injury. Unique to Tennessee, a first-time DUI offender must also complete community service for 24 hours while wearing an orange-colored vest that reads, "I AM A DRUNK DRIVER." Drivers who are convicted of more than one DUI offense face stiffer penalties.

Potential non-legal consequences

Drivers convicted of DUI in Tennessee also face non-legal ramifications that can impact employment and car loans. A drinking and driving conviction may affect the person's ability to retain certain positions with certain employers and may also negatively affect the individual's potential to find a new job. In addition, some people who are convicted of a DUI with the burden of a car loan may face repossession of the car or added restrictions to continue its use. Insurance costs also normally increase after a DUI conviction as well.

Because the legal underpinnings of a DUI case in Tennessee are complicated and because those facing a drinking and driving conviction stand to face severe penalties, it's important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to preserve your legal rights.

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