Tennessee legislators to consider more stringent DUI laws

Tennessee lawmakers plan to introduce legislation that could result in more people pleading guilty to DUI or being charged as repeat offenders.

People convicted of driving under the influence in Tennessee can face various serious consequences, as many Nashville residents know firsthand. A first-time conviction can be punished with maximum fines of $1,500 and up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. Unfortunately, state lawmakers are now considering passing laws that could make the consequences of a DUI conviction even harsher.

Proposed policy changes

According to WMC News, one lawmaker intends to introduce legislation in 2016 that will establish stricter DUI reporting requirements. Currently, at least 18 out of 95 Tennessee counties don't report DUI convictions to the National Crime Information Center. As a result, some people with past DUI convictions may receive several first-time DUI charges instead of facing escalating sanctions. The new bill reportedly will require all DUI arrests or convictions to be reported to the NCIC within two to five days.

Another bill that has already been written would allow judges to punish convicted first-time offenders more harshly. This legislation would grant judges the right to require first-time offenders to use ankle monitoring bracelets and ignition interlock devices. These measures wouldn't be contingent upon a person's conviction; instead, judges would be able to impose them after an arrest.

Potential ramifications

Critics worry that the second piece of legislation could adversely affect people who have been accused of driving under the influence. The costs associated with using an ignition interlock device and ankle monitoring bracelet could prove financially burdensome for many people. This could lead some drivers to plead guilty to DUI even if the charges weren't merited.

By potentially increasing first-time convictions and reporting of prior convictions, these bills could result in more drivers being charged as repeat offenders. This, in turn, could leave more drivers facing all of the following escalating consequences:

  • Fines up to $3,500 and jail time of at least 45 days for a second-time offense
  • Fines up to $10,000 and a minimum of 120 days in jail for a third-time offense
  • Fines up to $15,000 and 12 months of jail time, with at least 150 consecutive days served, for a fourth-time offense

People who are convicted of repeat DUI offenses also may face longer periods of mandatory license suspension and ignition interlock device use. Sadly, these penalties may collectively make it harder for drivers to maintain their employment and financial solvency.

Mounting a DUI defense

Even if these bills don't pass, people convicted of driving under the influence in Tennessee can still face harmful and even life-changing ramifications. These potential outcomes underscore why it is often beneficial for people charged with DUI to seek legal representation. An attorney may be able to help a person mount a defense or at least pursue less harsh sentencing terms.