Tennessee raises penalties in DUI cases

People accused of drunk driving in Tennessee may face more severe penalties in case of a conviction, especially if they have multiple DUI convictions on their record. The state legislature has revised the criminal penalties associated with drunk driving, with some people facing years in prison as a result. In most cases, sentences are not associated with first-time DUI convictions, but an initial conviction can make it more difficult to avoid incarceration later on.

Under House Bill 167, several additional categories of penalties were created for people with multiple DUI convictions. It created a category for people who were convicted of their fifth DUI offense and required that those who were convicted seven times for drunk driving serve 100% of the maximum sentence allowed. In the past, people convicted of DUI typically received at most a six-year sentence in prison, even after multiple convictions. In most cases, they were eligible for release after serving 50% of that time. The bill increased the maximum sentence to 15 years and requires people to serve at least 60% of their sentence.

For people with fewer DUI convictions, they may face a license suspension or revocation, which can prevent them from traveling for work, school or family purposes. In order to receive a restricted license allowing them to travel, people must often install an ignition interlock device. They must blow into the device and get a favorable reading before they are able to start their cars.

While many support the use of these devices, especially as an alternative to incarceration, they can be costly, especially on top of the thousands of dollars in fines often linked to a drunk driving conviction. People accused of DUI may consult with a criminal defense attorney about how best to protect their rights.

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