Knoxville, Tennessee, is the home of one of the nation’s finest institutions of higher education, the University of Tennessee, which boasts one of the nation’s greatest sports teams, the Tennessee Vols. College life consists of the usual classes, sporting events, and other extracurricular scholarly and leisure activities. Proximity to “regular” life in Knoxville, Tennessee, allows students the opportunity to enjoy a glimpse of life, work, and play post-college. Moderation may be tossed out as the enjoyment of exam season winds down or football season gears up.
So what happens if you are pulled over for DUI in Knoxville, Tennessee? How does the legal drinking age affect the charge? Is there a different outcome if you are not a state resident?
DUI is a serious issue
Driving while under the influence or driving while intoxicated (both known as DUI) is an issue that affects public safety and welfare on the highways. Pedestrians as well as other drivers on the road are not the only ones affected by a potential intoxicated driver. The families and loved ones of the accused as well as those of anyone injured are also affected.
All of this is not to say that anyone who is stopped for a DUI does not deserve a full and fair opportunity to defend themselves against any charges.
Many people feel ashamed, scared, isolated, and demoralized after receiving a DUI charge. Time away from home spent in jail or the occasion of speaking with one’s family regarding the situation can be understandably difficult times. But just because the situation appears overwhelming, don’t let the pain of a tough situation stop you from seeking competent, experienced legal assistance. The penalties for DUI convictions range from a minimum of 48 hours in jail and a one-year driver’s license suspension, all the way up to six years in prison for a DUI – Fourth or greater offense— the cost can be high for inaction.
What is Implied Consent?
Implied consent is the rule that as a condition of obtaining a driver’s license in Tennessee, any driver arrested under suspicion of DUI must agree to take an alcohol breath, urine, or blood test or face penalties. That means refusal for a roadside test carries certain penalties if the court determines that the officer had reasonable grounds to ask the arrestee to give blood or breath on the suspicion of DUI. If it is just a stop, and the officer has not placed a driver under arrest, the penalty for refusing the test does not apply.
The penalties for refusing a blood, urine, or breath test depend according to the number of occasions the driver has been arrested. First-time offenders who refuse a test receive a 1-year driver’s license revocation. Second and third-time offenders receive a 2-year driver’s license suspension. While the penalties for refusing a test may be challenged and won in court, especially where the DUI charge is successfully reduced or dismissed, it helps to know what the penalties may be for refusing. An additional ground for challenging the suspension is when the officer failed to inform the driver about the penalty for refusal.
Keep in mind that if the driver is using a suspended license due to causing physical injury to another person, the penalties rise in severity.
Offenses and penalties
In general, the baseline blood alcohol concentration (or BAC) level in Tennessee is .08%. Anything higher than .08% is considered legally intoxicated. Depending on how high the actual BAC level is and the number of DUI arrests within a ten year period, the penalties continue a steep incline from tier to tier.
Two examples of how seriously the state of Tennessee takes DUI penalties follow here:
First-time offenders receive:
- 48 hours up to 11 months, 29 days for offenders in violation of 55-10-401
- .20 BAC or greater minimum jail time 7 consecutive days
- License revocation for 1 year
- You will be ordered to participate in an alcohol and drug treatment program
- Pay restitution to any person suffering physical injury or personal loss
- $350-$1,500 fine
Second time DUI offenders receive:
- 45 days to 11 months, 29 days in jail
- $600-$3,500 mandatory fine
- License revocation for 2 years/Restricted License available after first year
- Subject to vehicle seizure/forfeiture
- You will be ordered to attend an alcohol and drug treatment program
- The judge can order you to install an Ignition Interlock Device at your expense
- If two (2) convictions of DUI in 5 years, Ignition Interlock Device required for 6 months after reinstatement at your expense
- Pay restitution to any person suffering personal injury or loss
While these are just two examples, others exist involving Vehicular Assault, Child Endangerment, Vehicular Homicide, Aggravated Vehicular Assault and more.
Penalties for drivers who are not of legal drinking age, applicable to most college-age students, include the following (from the same site):
- Under specific statute, license suspensions of at least one year, followed by possible restricted license
- Under specific statute, license suspension of at least one year, with no provision for restricted license. The court may impose public service work as well.
As a reference for interested parties, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s website at http://state.tn.us/safety/duioutline.shtml offers an excellent resource for detailed information regarding the penalties associated with each offense, blood alcohol content level, and corresponding penalties. In addition to the tiered penalties schedule, the page also describes additional charges that may apply when dealing with a Knoxville, Tennessee, DUI charge.