Posts Tagged Tennessee DUI Conviction

Increased Jail Time for Some DUI Offenders in Tennessee

Beginning in July 2016, drunk drivers who have prior DUI convictions will face more severe penalties.[1] The Tennessee General Assembly has enacted a new law that amends Tennessee Code Annotated §55-10-402 and enhances the way Tennessee punishes offenders with multiple DUI convictions. These changes will apply only to those who commit an offense on or after July 1, 2016.

Previously, a conviction for a 4th offense or higher DUI was a Class E Felony. A Class E Felony carries a punishment of 1-6 years.[2] Starting on July 1, while a 4th or 5th offense conviction for DUI will remain a Class E Felony, a person who commits a 6th or subsequent offense will be sentenced as a Class C Felon. A Class C Felony is punishable by 3-15 years in the penitentiary.[3]

Although the mandatory minimum jail sentence for DUI offenders who have six or more convictions will not change, the maximum sentence increases significantly. People who are convicted of a 4th or subsequent offense must serve a mandatory minimum of 150 days in jail. However, based on statistics from 2015 in Tennessee, Class E Felons serve an average of 1.56 years in jail, while Class C Felons serve an average of 4.13 years in jail.[4] This change to the law should significantly increase the amount of incarceration for those who have six or more convictions for DUI.

About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants.  Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.  Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.

He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 7th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen).  Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions.  He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.

The author would like to thank his associate attorney, Anna Rickels, for her research and contributions to this article.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.tndui.com

[1] http://share.tn.gov/sos/acts/109/pub/pc0876.pdf

[2] Tennessee Code Annotated §40-35-111(b)(5)

[3] Tennessee Code Annotated §40-35-111(b)(3)

[4] Sentencing Practices in Tennessee (April 2015) http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/docs/criminal_sentencing_stats_cy2014_draft_v2.pdf

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Will I be able to rent a car after a DUI conviction?

Many people are unaware of the many collateral consequences of a DUI conviction.  One generally understood consequence of a conviction for Driving Under the Influence, First Offense, in Tennessee is the loss of a driver license for one year.  Even though a restricted driver license may be obtained for many people convicted of a DUI, First Offense, a restricted driver license will typically not suffice to rent a motor vehicle.  Most, if not all, national rental agencies require a renter to provide a valid driver license.  Therefore, the possibility of renting a car will not be an option for at least a year after a conviction for Driving Under the Influence in Tennessee.

Even after the Tennessee driver license reinstatement of someone convicted of DUI, the ability to rent a car may be limited due to insurance concerns.  Individual rental companies may respond differently to a prior DUI conviction.  Therefore, the best course of action would be to contact a sales representative before a rental car is reserved online and relied upon for transportation.  Higher rates, travel restrictions, and special insurance may be required to rent a vehicle, so it makes sense to shop around and compare policies and rates.

Please click here for additional information about the collateral consequences (other consequences) of a DUI conviction.  An experienced Tennessee Defense Lawyer should be consulted about all of the possible consequences of a Driving Under the Influence conviction.  Steve and Sara are available to answer questions about the consequences of a Tennessee DUI and may be reached by calling 865-249-7200.

 

 

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DUI Vehicle Forfeiture: What you should know if you receive a “Notice of Seizure”

The Tennessee Department of Safety, through law enforcement officers, may seize the vehicle of anyone suspected of multiple DUIs.  A vehicle may also be seized from anyone found to be driving on a revoked, cancelled, or suspended license if the reason for the revoked, cancelled, or suspended license was a DUI conviction.  In other words, a person convicted of a DUI risks vehicle seizure if he or she is found to be driving without a valid license or is suspected of DUI, regardless of whether there is a conviction.

When a citizen’s property is seized, the government, which is typically be represented by the Tennessee Department of Safety in cases involving vehicle and asset forfeiture, must follow the rules.  Multiple state laws, court cases, and administrative rules govern the forfeiture process.  Furthermore,  constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and against excessive fines may apply to forfeiture proceedings just as they do criminal proceedings.

The Department of Safety rules and regulations are complicated and often intimidating.  Nevertheless, failure to take action within strict time limits may result in the loss of property rights.  If you or someone you know has had property seized by law enforcement, it is important to contact a Tennessee criminal attorney immediately.  You may contact Steve and Sara by calling (865) 249-7200.  You may also wish to review our website for additional information about forfeitures.

[Source: T.C.A. Section 55-10-401 et seq., Williams v. State Dept. of Safety, 854 S.W.2d 102 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1993), Stuart v. State Dept. of Safety, 963 S.W.2d 28 (Tenn. 1998)]

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DUI: Misdemeanor or Felony?

A First Offense DUI in Tennessee is always a Misdemeanor (sentence of less than 1 year in jail) if no accidents, injuries, or deaths result from the offense.  However, all DUI convictions require defendants to serve at least 48 hours in jail, which is a harsher punishment than a defendant would receive for most other Misdemeanors.

Even though Second and Third Offense DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, the mandatory minimum sentences are 45 and 120 days respectively for Second and Third Offenses.  A Fourth or subsequent DUI Offense is a Felony Offense (sentence of 1 year or more in jail) and, upon conviction, requires that a defendant serve 150 days in jail.  These mandatory jail sentences are significantly harsher than mandatory minimum sentences for nearly every other Misdemeanor Offense.

Jail time is one of many penalties that are unique to DUI.  Please visit TNDUI.COM for more details about the penalties for DUI offenses in Tennessee.   A Tennessee DUI attorney can help you avoid the harshest punishment.  Please contact Knoxville DUI attorneys Steve and Sara at (865) 249-7200 if you have any DUI-related questions.

[Source: T.C.A. 55-10-403]

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Can I be convicted of DUI when in a parked vehicle?

Yes.  In Tennessee, it is possible to be convicted of a DUI while sitting in a parked vehicle with or without the engine running.  According to Tennessee DUI law, a state prosecutor need only prove that an impaired person was “in physical control” of an “automobile or motor driven vehicle” in order to obtain a conviction.   Court decisions in Tennessee have confirmed that a person, in a parked car, with the keys in the ignition, may be convicted of a DUI.

However, the DUI law in Tennessee does not assure that the state prosecutor will succeed in such a case.  A person is not ‘automatically’ guilty when found in a vehicle with the keys in the ignition.  A Tennessee DUI attorney should investigate the location of arrest, actions of law enforcement, and any proof of impairment in order to find additional weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case.

Regardless of a defendant’s location and circumstances, everyone accused of a DUI should consult with a DUI attorney as soon as possible.  If you have questions about the facts of a case, Steve and Sara are ready to help you.  You may reach all of our attorneys by calling (865) 249-7200.

[Source: T.C.A. 55-10-401]

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How long can a person go to jail for a Tennessee DUI?

The number of prior DUI convictions in a defendant’s past significantly affects the amount of jail time a defendant may expect to serve if he or she is convicted of a Tennessee DUI.  It is important to note that the prior convictions need not be from Tennessee.  Even out of state DUI convictions can be used against a person accused of committing a Tennessee DUI offense.

Tennessee DUI law requires minimum amounts of jail time to be served for all DUI convictions.  If a defendant is convicted of a DUI, the judge MUST sentence that defendant to the minimum amount of time established by Tennessee DUI law, ranging from 48 hours in jail up to 150 days in jail, depending upon the offense.  On the other hand, the judge may sentence a defendant to more than the mandatory minimum amount of time – this is more likely to occur with multiple convictions.  Please visit our website for a full list of penalties for DUI convictions.

TN DUI lawyers know that any time in jail causes a major disruption in a person’s life, which is why anyone charged with DUI in Tennessee should consult with a Tennessee DUI attorney as soon as possible.  If you have questions about your Tennessee DUI charge and associated penalties, our lawyers are available to assist you.  Sara, Steve, or Nate will be happy to speak with you at (865) 249-7200.  

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Can A Prior Out-Of-State Conviction Be Used Against You?

If my prior DUI conviction was in another state, can it be used in Tennessee to charge me with a second offense DUI?

Any DUI conviction from another state may be used against you if arrested for a Tennessee DUI offense.  If the time criteria is met, a prior, out-of-state DUI may be used to enhance your Tennessee DUI conviction to a DUI second offense or greater, depending upon the facts of your prior conviction(s).  Tennessee does honor DUI convictions from all other jurisdictions in the country.

It is important to note that the arresting officer may not know about the out-of-state conviction(s) at the time of the Tennessee DUI arrest.  The officer’s initial arrest warrant, and any paperwork a person receives following a DUI arrest, may state that the charge is DUI, first offense.   However, the state prosecutor may amend the initial Tennessee DUI charge to multiple offense DUI  when more information becomes available.

Tennessee DUI law allows for a person to challenge an out-of-state conviction, and a skilled DUI attorney may prevent it from being used against you in your Tennessee DUI case.  Be sure to consult with a Tennessee Defense Attorney to determine if a conviction in another state could be used against you.  A successful challenge to an out-of-state conviction could make a significant difference in a defendant’s case and punishment.

[Source: Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-403]

 

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Automobile Insurance After a DUI Arrest

How will a DUI conviction affect my automobile insurance?

Once convicted of a DUI, your insurance rates will likely increase – a lot.  That is one reason it is so important to aggressively defend your case.  However, if convicted, you will likely be placed on “high risk” insurance (sometimes referred to as an SR-22, which is just the form for “high risk” insurance).  The amount of the increase depends, among other factors,  on your driving record and how good a customer you are with that company.

The only measure you can take to try to mitigate the situation is to:

  1. Talk to your insurance agent to negotiate a lower premium; and/or
  2. Shop around for other insurance.  You will find that prices can greatly vary.

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You don’t have to be over the legal limit of .08% to be convicted of DUI

Most people erroneously believe that one can’t be convicted of DUI if one registers below .08% blood alcohol level.  Recently, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction of a man whose blood alcohol level was only .03%, well below the statutory .08% per se (legal) level.

In this case, the officer testified that the defendant swerved his vehicle three times over the yellow center lines of the road. Then the Defendant approached an intersection and turned left without stopping at the stop sign. After being stopped, the Defendant failed all field sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a person does not have to have a blood alcohol content of .08% or any drugs in his or her system in order to be found guilty of DUI.

The Court considered all of the evidence, including the Defendant’s failure to perform field sobriety tests satisfactorily and the police officer’s observation of driving infractions by the Defendant, was sufficient to uphold the conviction.

This case emphasizes the need to be certain a qualified lawyer with sufficient DUI or DWI defense experience and expertise is hired to defend a Driving Under the Influence case even if the blood alcohol level is below the per se (legal) limit of .08%.

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