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Changes to underage DUI charges repealed

Young adults and their families need to be aware of a recent change in the state's underage drunk driving laws. In July, a law went into effect here in Tennessee that raised the blood alcohol content (BAC) for underage drivers (mainly those ages 18 to 20) to .08, along with the potential penalties for those facing underage DUI charges. That law jeopardized the state's receipt of nearly $60 million in federal funding because it was in direct conflict with current federal zero-tolerance standards.

That $60 million represents approximately eight percent of the federal funding the state receives for roadwork. Therefore, mere months after the law went into effect, Tennessee lawmakers voted to repeal the change. This means that the former BAC for underage drivers is once again .02.

At the same time, the increased penalties are once again more lenient. Even though the penalties are not as harsh now, anyone who is underage and suspected of driving under the influence can be charged if his or her BAC is merely .02. This could mean a temporary increase in the number of underage drivers being arrested for DUI if the general public is not adequately informed of the change.

Because people's futures are often at stake, criminal defense attorneys keep close eye on potential changes in the law (such as those to underage DUI charges) that could affect their clients. If any changes are made, many see it as their duty to help ensure that the public is aware of those changes as quickly as possible. Furthermore, changes in the law will directly affect how they represent their clients' interests in court.

Source:, "Facing $60M penalty, Tennessee repeals underage DUI law", Sept. 14, 2016

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