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Proposed legislation calls for stricter first-time DUI penalties

The state of Tennessee already imposes some of the most punitive penalties for individuals convicted of drunk driving. In fact, even first-time convicted DUI offenders in Tennessee lose their driving privileges for one year.

Additionally, from the time a Tennessee resident’s driver's license is suspended, he or she is required to install an ignition interlock device in their personal vehicle. Upon reinstatement of a driver’s license, a first-time DUI offender must continue to use and pay for the device for six months.

A total of 24 states, including Tennessee, currently require first-time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their personal vehicles. However, if recently proposed federal legislation is signed into law, first-time DUI offenders in all 50 states will be forced to install the devices for a minimum of six months.

Ignition interlock devices must be installed at a driver's expense and installation and monthly maintenance fees can be costly. A driver who is required to install the device must blow into it prior to being able to start the vehicle. The device, much like a breathalyzer, then tests an individual’s blood alcohol content level. A vehicle will only start when the device detects an acceptable BAC reading. 

The costs and penalties associated with a DUI are increasing in every state across the country. As police officers continue to grow more reliant on technology and devices such as breathalyzers and ignition interlock devices, the likelihood that errors will occur in DUI cases increases.

Tennessee residents who are facing DUI charges would be wise to exercise their Fifth Amendment rights and retain a criminal defense attorney. DUI cases are incredibly complex and a defense attorney who has successfully defended DUI cases will thoroughly examine the evidence and facts of a case and defend an individual's civil rights.

Source: Forbes, "New Ignition Interlock Legislation Aims To Save Thousands From Drunk Driving Deaths," Tanya Mohn, July 7, 2014 National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Lignition Interlock Laws," June 2014

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