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Collateral Consequences of a DUI Arrest/or Conviction in Tennessee

Most everyone who has had a DUI or knows someone who has had a charge or conviction is aware of the legal punishments for first and subsequent enhanced convictions. However, there has been little discussion of the collateral consequences of being convicted or even charged with a DUI. The purpose of this blog entry is to touch that issue:

     1.  DUI convictions can never be expunged (deleted) from your permanent record with law enforcement agencies and are subject to open record laws. (The ten year backup rule to be charged as an enhanced offender does not apply.);

     2.  "Just Busted" is a convenience store tabloid that has developed a lucrative business in Tennessee and Georgia by purchasing (or obtaining) mug shots of all persons arrested on any charge, including DUI's, and printing said photos in their weekly publication. A maxim of "innocent until proven guilty" is often overlooked by those reading the latest edition. Many individuals have had their lives and/or careers affected by this unfavorable publicity, even if they are later found not guilty of the charges;

     3.  Many local newspapers and website publications have now jumped on the publicity bandwagon and are printing on a regular basis all identities of persons charged with any criminal offense;

     4.  Admission to certain educational facilities can be affected. Ex: If you are trying to get into medical or law school and there are three academically equal candidates and two have had a prior DUI, which one do you think would be selected for admission?;

     5.  Both public and private employers have varying provisions in their employee handbooks about the effect of a DUI and/or drug conviction ranging from suspension, mandatory drug counseling up to immediate termination;

     6.  Loss of security clearance. For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other government agencies have rigid policies in this area, particularly in nuclear facilities;

     7.  Commercial driver's license to become a tractor trailer operator can be revoked, and present and future employment opportunities will be lost;

     8.  Military careers can be affected. The government is reluctant to trust the operation of a multi-million dollar piece of equipment such as Abrams tank or an F-18 fighter jet to a person with a DUI charge or conviction;

     9.  Acceptance into college or a military academy may or may not be affected. The Naval Academy (and others) have strict consequences for a DUI and/or drug conviction or charges;

     10.  The list goes on and on, and will continue to increase as organized groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) advocate stronger DUI penalties and lower breath/alcohol levels necessary to convict an accused. The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA) receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and private industry support each year to continue their campaign to save lives and reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads of America. Benjamin Franklin would probably argue that "when you give up liberty for security, you have neither liberty nor security," but the political climate now is such that legislative bodies make it easier to charge and convict DUI drivers while often ignoring constitutional rights that still are protected in other areas of the law;

     11.  Most attorneys do not go into the collateral consequences described briefly above. There are many more that should be discussed before a decision on how to handle a DUI charge should be made by a defendant and their counsel. As previously stated, the best rule in this area is "don't drink and drive."

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