Written by attorney Vincent Patrick Wyatt

Notable 2010 Changes to the Tennessee DUI Law

The Tennesee Legislature made several changes to the DUI law this past legislative session that went into effect for DUI violations after June 23, 2010.

One of such changes amended the law regarding the look back period for past offenses. The old law calculated prior offenses under the DUI law for enhancement purposes by looking back 10 years from the previous conviction to the new conviction. For example, a person with one prior DUI on April 1, 2000 would face the minimums of a second offense if convicted on a second DUI before April 1, 2010.

Under the new law, the 10 years for enhancement purposes is calculated from violation to violation. I imagine such change was made to prevent criminal defense lawyers from continuing their clients cases so as to avoid the enhanced penalites. Such enhanced penalites are significant. For example, in Tennessee while a first offender may face a minimum senetnce of 48 hours in jail, a second offender faces a minimum 45 days in jail. A second offense also requires a larger fine and longer loss of driving privileges.

Another change amended the law to require first time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices if any of the following apply: 1. The defendant's blood alchohol content is .15 or higher 2. The defendant is accompanied by a person under 18 years old 3. A traffic accident for which notice to law enforcement is required under T.C.A 55-10-107 4. The person is in violation of the implied consent law and has a prior conviction or juvenile adjudication for implied consent, driving while impaired under 21, open container law, or reckless driving where DUI was the original charged offense.

Another significant change amended the law to actually allow DUI offenders the ability to drive more. Under the previous law, once convicted of DUI, one could basically only drive to and from work and to and from full-time school. An amendment to the law for those convicted after June 23, 2010, allows a judge to permit those convicted of DUI for the first time the option of installing an interlock device that measures breath alcohol, at their own expense, so that such person can operate a vehicle without geographic restrictions. While the cost of installing and maintaing an interlock device is not cheap such change in the law is very important to many people charged with DUI that cannot operate under the old restrictions. Those with children were legally unable to get their child to a doctor visit, athletic events, school, etc. and such amendment accomodates those individuals and many others.

If you are charged with a DUI in Nashville or Middle Tennessee or are in need of any legal advice, don't hesitate to contact Vince Wyatt at 615.256.6666.

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