Tennessee bill proposes to reduce jail time for repeat DUI offenders

Some say Tennessee is "plagued" with people driving under the influence of alcohol. Many cry out for harsher punishments, and policies aimed at reducing the rate by which people drive after consuming alcohol. According to news reports, a strategy is being proposed by legislators and supported by many, that would result in shorter jail sentences for those who are convicted of more than one DUI.

The Tennessean reports that the newly proposed bill, entitled the "Recidivism Reduction Act" aims to do more than reduce jail time for those with DUI arrests; it aims to actually reduce DUI recidivism, or repeat DUI offenses. The bill employs a method by which judges can sentence second- and third-time DUI offenders to a reduced jail sentence, plus a substance abuse treatment program.

The Tennessee state website provides information regarding the various sentences and consequences related to DUI convictions.

Currently, second-time DUI offenders can be sentenced to the following:

  • Jail time between 45 days and nearly one full year
  • Mandatory fine ranging from $600 to $3,500
  • Required attendance at a drug and alcohol treatment program
  • Revoked license for two years
  • Possibility of a restricted license after one year

Third-time DUI offenders can be sentenced to:

  • Jail time between 120 days and nearly one full year
  • Mandatory fine ranging from $1,100 to $10,000
  • Required attendance at a drug and alcohol treatment program
  • Revoked license for between six and 10 years
  • No possibility of a restricted license

According to the Tennessean, the Recidivism Reduction Act, championed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, intends to institute a system that will use state funds already earmarked for addiction treatment in a more effective way. Current sentence-reduction guidelines allow judges to reduce second-time offenders' sentences from 45 days in jail to only 28 days in a residential treatment program. However, longer-term "intensive outpatient" programs are not an option. Under the proposed legislation, the 45-day jail sentence for second-time offenders would be reduced to a minimum of 15 days, and the rest of the time could be served in a long-term drug and alcohol treatment program. Similarly, third-time offenders would be required to serve 60 days in jail, but would be able to serve the remaining months of their sentence in a treatment program.

The Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services expressed his support of the proposed bill, stating that the department "believes that, no matter what, people have to be responsible for their behavior," and that the treatment options will provide positive results. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other law enforcement organizations were involved in solidifying the contents of the bill, and are voicing their intentions to support the bill's passage.

A report from WSMV.com, Nashville, indicates that the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference supports the legislation, and believes that it will break the cycle of repeat jail sentences often required of chronic offenders. Studies show that graduates from a program like the one proposed have only a 10 percent chance of recidivism, and that the program will cost much less than incarceration.

If you have been arrested for DUI, an experienced attorney can help you navigate the often complicated consequences that may be imposed upon you if you are convicted of a repeat offense. Contact an attorney today.