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Nashville felony DUI: What's the right response to the issue?

Just as no two human beings are the same, no two criminal cases are the same. That's one reason why creating a one-size-fits-all solution or penalty under the law isn't always the best approach to take.

That's perhaps one reason why in Nashville and other jurisdictions in Tennessee, the judges who are responsible for meting out penalties for convictions of driving under the influence, whether it's for a misdemeanor offense or a felony DUI resulting from four convictions or more, are granted a certain amount of latitude.

Not everyone is aware that such leeway exists when they are brought before the bench, which is why anyone facing a drunk driving charge of any kind should always engage the help of an experienced attorney. It may be possible to prevent conviction in the best of circumstances. In other cases, the opportunity may exist to mitigate the penalties with the right request.

We are prompted to highlight this for our readers in the wake of a recent two-part report on one of our local Nashville TV stations. The show set up the piece the first night by posing the provocative questions: Why are there so many stories of drivers with multiple DUIs still being on the road? Who’s to blame for this? Are punishments fitting the crime?

The next installment offers the suggestion that perhaps too-soft judges are to blame. But the top DUI judge in Davidson County offers the observation that a simple crime and punishment equation doesn’t really address the issue. He says massive repeat offenders have a real problem and that real justice for them depends not just holding them accountable, but getting them help.

The report then goes on to offer an example out of Williamson County of how this mindset can play out. Williamson has a DUI Court Program under which felony DUI offenders may see somewhat less jail time, bolstered by mandatory in- and out-patient treatment for alcoholism. The judge who runs the program notes that of 30 people who have been through the program, only one has been arrested again.

Such programs are not available in every Tennessee jurisdiction. But alternatives may exist, and attorneys with experience in handling DUI cases should know how to seek them out if appropriate.

Source: WZTV-TV, “Drinking & Still Driving –- Part 1,” Nick Paranjape, May 9, 2013; “Drinking & Still Driving –- Part 2,” Nick Paranjape, May 10, 2013

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