Tennessee's DUI laws are like a patchwork quilt: they are bits and pieces put together over years of legal compromising that are stitched together with a sometimes seemingly crazy result. One of the strange DUI laws is the Owner/Passenger Law. Under Tennessee law, an owner of a vehicle can be charged with a DUI if he or she allows another person to drive while under the influence. If they are stopped, both driver and owner may be arrested.
There are two legal theories that support the arrest of the owner/passenger: T.C.A. 55-10-201 provides that each person who "commits, attempts to commit, conspires to commit or aids or abets in the commission of any act" declared in the commission of any act declared in Chapter 8 or portions 1 - 5 of Chapter 55 is guilty of the offense. The statute also provides that a person who is an accessory or agent is guilty of the offense, as well as every person who permits or directs another to violate any provision of Chapter 8 and parts 1- 5 of Chapter 55.
The second theory is that the owner/passenger under the influence in Davidson County is criminally responsible. Criminal responsibility is a theory that allows the State to convict you for the conduct of another person if you aid, direct or solicit another to help you in the commission of a crime. Typically, the driver of the vehicle is arrested for DUI as well as the owner.
What happens next?
A court date will be assigned. The owner DUI charges will track the driver's case. Once the driver DUI case is resolved, the owner's case may be resolved. It is important to hire an experienced DUI attorney to handle the owner's case.
Even if the driver of the vehicle blew over .08, a DUI conviction is not a certainty. There are dozens of possible defense strategies that could result in a dismissal of the charge, a not guilty verdict, or reduction of the charge to a non-alcohol driving offense. Even if the driver is convicted of DUI, it may also be possible to defeat the State's case against the owner of the vehicle.
If either case is dismissed, it is equally important to file an Order of Expungement to clear the criminal record.
At my law firm, I aggressively defend people accused of DUI. I will do everything I can to obtain a positive outcome for you. Contact us by calling (615) 265-6383 for a free consultation and strategy session.