A first time DUI in Tennessee holds penalties that rival some states second and third offenders. However, we also realize that many individuals get behind the wheel thinking they are fine after only a few drinks and are surprised that they fail the breathalyzer or road tests when they are stopped by law enforcement.
One look at the current Tennessee first DUI penalties and fines should be enough to dissuade you from getting behind the wheel after drinking:
- Cash Fines and Penalties – $350 to $1,500
- License – one-year mandatory suspension
- Jail – 48 hours to 11 months
In addition to these fines and penalties, all first time offenders are required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed on their car when they are finally able to get their license back again. This means that a worst-case scenario will have you in jail for almost a full year paying close to $5,000 in fines, penalties, towing, educational, and installation/maintenance charges.
How is a DUI Determined in Tennessee?
Standard procedure in virtually every state will require the driver to take some type of chemical test. If the test returns a blood alcohol level of more than .02 percent for someone under 21, over .08 percent for 21 or older, or .04 percent for a commercial driver, that person is considered to be driving under the influence. For a person weighing about 120 pounds, this would take only three drinks to surpass. For the average male weighing 160 pounds, four drinks will have you over the limit.
While you can refuse to take the chemical tests, you will be penalized. For instance, anyone with their first DUI in Tennessee that refuses the tests will have an automatic one-year license revocation. Second and third time offenders will lose their license for two years.
Do I Have Rights during a DUI Stop in Tennessee?
Regardless of the state you are in, you do have rights when you are stopped by law enforcement. But, keep in mind, acting arrogant or giving the officer an attitude will only hurt your case. You can express and demand your rights, but do it politely.
Most officers will try to chat up a DUI stop to check for alertness, where that person was, and to check for slurring speech patterns. You are under no obligation to answer any questions and can request to have your attorney present before answering any questions. Nor do you have to take a roadside breathalyzer or road tests. As stated above, you can also refuse to take a chemical test at processing, but it does carry severe penalties.
Here is a basic checklist to go over to see if your rights were violated during the stop:
• Did the officer actually see you driving the vehicle?
• Was there probable cause for a traffic stop?
• How long did it take the breathalyzer test to be administered?
• If you did road sobriety tests, were they standardized tests or unacceptable tests?
• What was the weather like during your testing?
• Does the police report conflict with witness statements?
• Did the officer read you your Miranda Rights during the arrest?
How to Get Help for a First Time DUI in Tennessee
In order to fight your case, you will need to find a good DUI attorney in Tennessee. You will also need to educate yourself on the DUI laws of Tennessee. A great resource to start with is DUIRights.com. Here you will find virtually every resource needed, including a Free Personal DUI Arrest Evaluation. This will give you a much better idea of your options when it comes to how you are going to proceed with your case.
Once the evaluation is done, you should know if you have a chance of winning the case outright, if you can plead out to lesser charges, or if you need to accept a guilty plea and hope for a lenient judge. Obviously, the last option is the one you would like to avoid because judges these days are coming down harder and harder on DUI offenses.
If your attorney wants to fight the case, he or she will more than likely go after the official police report because witness testimony contradicts what the officer reported or he or she believes the chemical test results were inaccurate. Additional reasons to go to trial would be a rights’ violation or external factors that affected your driving or sobriety test results, such as bad weather or medication.
In some cases, when both the prosecution and defense question the strength of the case, a plea bargain can be reached for lesser charges. For instance, you may plead down to reckless driving and avoid having a DUI on your record. While you still may face fines and penalties, they will be far less severe.
What Happens if I Am Arrested for a Second or Third DUI in Tennessee?
As you have already read, the penalties in Tennessee are extremely severe. For second TN DUI offenders, possible jail time is 45 days to one year with a two-year mandatory license suspension. You will also have mandatory fines from $600 to $3,500, and this does not include installation of the IID and any other costs related to the DUI. Third time offenders will spend 120 days to one year in jail and pay up to $10,000 in fines. His or her license will be suspended anywhere from three to ten years.
Obviously, the bottom line here is not to drink and drive. Being realistic, though, many DUI arrests happen because the individual simply did not believe himself or herself to be driving intoxicated. If you are facing a First DUI Offense in TN then get your DUI Arrest Evaluated for free to start getting answers to better your situation.