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Move to toughen DUI vehicular assault penalties renewed

Reasonable people in Tennessee can disagree about what is the most serious issue facing society at any given time. We suspect few would disagree, though, with the proposition that curbing driving under the influence seems to be a constant concern.

Considering the social, physical and emotional costs associated with DUIs, it is understandable that society would want to take measures to protect itself. On the other side of that coin, though, is the importance of protecting the rights of the individual who has been accused of such a crime.

The need for a vigorous defense is always important, but it could be even more essential in the near future if a measure before the Tennessee legislature is passed and signed into law.

The bill would make it easier for the state to pursue vehicular homicide charges in some DUI cases. With all that could be lost, if you are charged with any DUI-related crime, you should be working with an attorney.

Under current law, a driver convicted of DUI-related vehicular homicide charge has to be shown to have had a blood alcohol content of 0.24 percent and have a prior DUI conviction on their record to elicit the harshest penalty.

The proposed law removes the necessity of a prior DUI conviction and lowers the allowable BAC level of the suspect driver to 0.20 percent. Another provision would apply tougher sentencing for those convicted of vehicular homicide if they have a BAC level of 0.08 percent and methamphetamine in their system at the time of the accident.

The measure was originally introduced last year but failed to make much headway because of the bill's estimated $445,000 cost. Supporters are hoping to clear that obstacle by getting a budget amendment passed to cover the amount.

Source: Cleveland Daily Banner, "'Dustin's Law' in Capitol," Brian Graves, Feb. 27, 2014 

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