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Those Convicted of Fatal DUI Charges May Still Avoid Jail in TN

There is constant debate about which laws should stay in place and which ones need to be altered or completely removed. Currently, there is significant debate regarding whether laws regarding DUI charges in Tennessee should be changed. Many are arguing that the punishments prescribed by current law do not match the severity of the crime.

As the law is written now, one may possibly be hit with more time behind bars for being pulled over for drunk driving than for causing a fatal crash while driving intoxicated. Tennessee law requires that first-time offenders spend a minimum of 48 hours in jail. However, when it comes to fatal accidents, judges are required to examine 24 different factors when deciding punishment for the convicted offender, and the end result may not include any jail time.

One of the significant factors that judges must consider is the victim’s family’s wishes. In one instance in Tennessee, one man who was convicted was given probation as a result of a request by the daughter of the decedent. Critics of the current law argue that there is a disconnect between punishments for a DUI and punishments for vehicular homicide. When a person is convicted of vehicular homicide, state law does not require a convicted defendant to spend any time behind bars.

Regardless of whether the law should or will be changed, those who are facing DUI charges in Tennessee will need to deal with the law as it is now written in order to present a strong legal defense against the allegations. However, even if one is convicted of a fatal DUI, it is possible for one to argue for the court to grant probation. If the victim’s family can be convinced to request leniency, the presiding judge may be more inclined to allow the defendant to avoid jail time.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Loophole in Tennessee's Drunk Driving Law Under Scrutiny", July 7, 2014