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DWI Convictions Can Carry Steep Consequences for Teens in Tennessee

Teens convicted of DWI in Tennessee may face various direct legal sanctions as well as secondary long-term consequences.

It's not uncommon for teenagers in Nashville to make shortsighted or impulsive choices that have harmful long-term ramifications. One questionable decision that many young people may make at some point is driving after consuming alcohol. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, in 2013 alone, 5,963 teens under age 18 were arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, teenagers who are subsequently convicted may face serious and far-reaching consequences.

Legal sanctions

In Tennessee, people under the age of 21 can be charged with DWI for driving after consuming alcohol, legal medications or controlled substances. Even teenagers who are arrested with blood alcohol concentration levels that fall below the legal limit of .08 percent for adults can be charged with DWI. Teen drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of just .02 percent can face charges of DWI.

Under state law, teenagers who are convicted of underage DWI charges in Tennessee face various sanctions. Mandatory punishments include a 12-month period of license suspension and a $250 fine. Such individuals could lose their driver's licenses until reaching 21 years of age. State law also grants judges the right to order community service. Depending on the circumstances, teens may also face further sanctions for alleged possession of alcohol or controlled substance violations.

These penalties alone can be disruptive and burdensome for teens and their families. Unfortunately, the effects of a DWI conviction may also extend far beyond these direct sanctions.

Additional ramifications

The Wall Street Journal explains that criminal arrests and convictions can have various harmful effects. Due to the modern availability of this information, a criminal record of any sort may reduce a person's likelihood of gaining admission to college, securing employment or finding housing. One analysis from the University of South Carolina indicates that people with arrest records are less likely than their peers to graduate, live above the poverty line and eventually own houses. People who are actually convicted may face even more marked setbacks.

The impacts of a criminal conviction may be especially severe for teenagers who must soon apply to college or enter the workforce. A record of a conviction may lower a teen's chances of acceptance into a preferred college or hire into a desired position. It also may limit a teenager's ability to qualify for financial assistance. Consequently, a conviction may have significant adverse effects in both the short and long term.

Challenging DWI charges

Given the various potential ramifications of a DWI conviction, legal advice can be beneficial for anyone who faces charges of driving while impaired. A DWI attorney may be able to assist a person in contesting the arrest or the evidence that supports the charges. In other cases, an attorney may be able to offer advice on legal measures that may minimize the negative long-term effects of a conviction.