A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE CRIME:
Driving Under the Influence is one of the few crimes for which an individual can be convicted solely on the opinion of a police officer. While most DUI offenses are classified as misdemeanors, the penalties for this crime are typically much more serious. While the correct abbreviation for Driving Under the Influence is DUI, many people refer to this crime as DWI (Driving While Impaired). In Tennessee, when the person arrested is 21 years of age or older, these terms have been interchangeable with each other since July 1, 2003. If the person arrested is under 21 years of age, both the crime and consequences are very different from those of DUI. Therefore, if a person is arrested for Underage Driving While Impaired, it is particularly important to consult with the Knoxville, TN DUI lawyers of Oberman & Rice as soon as possible.
In order to convict a person of DUI, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was (1) operating or in physical control of (2) a motor vehicle on (3) any public road, highway, alley, parking lot, or any other premises generally frequented by the public while (4) under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher.
Thus, a person is legally considered to be under the influence “per se” if their blood alcohol level meets or exceeds the legal limit referred to above. Lower “per se” levels apply for those charged with Underage Driving While Impaired or those who are driving a commercial motor vehicle at the time of their arrest. This holds true even if the other evidence does not indicate the person’s ability to drive is actually impaired. A person can also be convicted of DUI for operating a vehicle while under the influence of a narcotic, even if it was prescribed by a physician.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE CONSEQUENCES:
- A sentence of 11 months, 29 days, with a minimum of 48 hours in jail, or a minimum of 7 days in jail if, at the time of the offense, the defendant’s blood alcohol level was .20% or higher; AND
- 24 hours of highway litter removal;
- A minimum $350.00 fine and court costs;
- Loss of driver’s license for a period of one year; and
- Enrollment in a court approved DUI education course or Victim Impact Panel (often sponsored by Mother’s Against Drunk Driving).
License revocation for one year is also required when a defendant is found to have refused to submit to a chemical (blood, breath, or urine) test after being lawfully requested to do so. This may apply even where the defendant is not convicted of DUI.
Persons charged with a DUI/DWI may also be charged with an Implied Consent Violation if they refuse to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test to determine the person’s blood alcohol content. The Tennessee Implied Consent Statute (Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-406) deems that any person who drives a motor vehicle in Tennessee has given consent to a chemical test (blood, breath or urine) to determine the drug or alcohol content of the person’s blood. Such test may be requested if a law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is driving under the influence.
A motorist does have a right to refuse to submit to a chemical test in most cases*; however, such refusal normally results in the suspension of the person’s driver’s license. Additionally, a motorist does not have a right to consult with a DUI lawyer in Tennessee before deciding whether or not to submit to a chemical test. It is important to note that even if a person wins the DUI case, he or she may still lose the Implied Consent case, resulting in loss of license and, in some instances, mandatory jail time.
*Instances in which a chemical test may be obtained without the motorists’ consent include, but are not limited to, motorists with a prior DUI conviction, motorists whose DUI involved an accident with injury to another party, and motorists presented with a warrant to obtain a chemical sample.
In addition to penalties imposed by the Court as a result of a DUI/DWI conviction, a person may also be faced with serious additional consequences. For instance, a DUI conviction may prevent a person from renting a vehicle from a commercial agency, depending on the policies of the rental company. Insurance premiums of a person convicted of DUI will likely be increased and the policy may even be cancelled. Additionally, a DUI conviction could negatively affect the status of a person’s professional license (i.e. Doctor, Lawyer, Nurse, Stock Broker, or Airline Pilot) and could affect one’s ability to obtain employment in the future. Finally, a DUI conviction could also affect one’s ability to travel out of the United States. For instance, Canada has strict laws regarding the admission of individuals who have been convicted of DUI. There may be additional consequences to the person charged with DUI/DWI which depend upon the facts of the case and the individual’s circumstances. Therefore, it is important to consult an experienced and knowledgeable DUI lawyer in Tennessee as soon as possible after arrest.