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Will Tennessee legislature increase DUI penalties again?

DUI enforcement in Tennessee is a complex matter. No one wants to share the road with intoxicated drivers, but developing an effective method of policing the issue is complex and expensive.

A recent case involving a tragic crash in Mississippi has led legislators in Tennessee to consider changes to the state's DUI law. The driver in that case was involved in a fatal crash at a time when he was already facing pending DUI charges. 

Tennessee recently increased the penalties for aggravated vehicular homicide and now requires those charged with certain DUI-related offenses, who had a prior alcohol-related conviction, to wear a monitoring device in order to receive bail.

One legislator wants to ensure that law enforcement is able to see if a driver they have pulled over has any pending DUI charges in addition to convictions for alcohol-related charges on their record.

Seems like a simple matter, until you consider that there are hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the state, including the Tennessee State Highway Patrol, 96 county Sheriff's departments, city police departments, like Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis and down to small towns with only a handful of officers.

But for such a system to work, they all have to work together, and it has to be accurate and up-to-date in real time for it to be effective. This would mean the legislature would have to fund the hardware/software necessary to make it work and maintain it in perpetuity.

As for enhancing penalties, it has been shown with the "war on drugs," that simply increasing penalties without taking into account the effect convictions and longer sentences will have on all elements of the issue is a recipe for an expensive and ineffective "solution."

Source:, "Tennessee leaders follow Mississippi’s lead, prepare to evaluate DUI laws," Caitlin Alexander, June 10, 2015

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