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A Tennessee DUI charge has both criminal and civil elements

The consequences of a DUI can be far reaching. For many people, being pulled over by the Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper or a Chattanooga Police officer is frightening.

Suddenly it is not TV or a movie, and you sitting on the side of the road with the intense flashing lights in your mirrors, surreally illuminating your vehicle as the trooper strides up to your window and asks for your license and registration. 

He or she may then ask if you have been drinking. This is not idle conversation. The evidence gathering process has already begun, with the Trooper noting the condition of your clothing, your manner of speaking, any odor of alcohol on your breath, and the presence of anything else visible within your vehicle that could suggest illegal activity.

You are asked to exit the car and to perform a set of field sobriety tests. Some of these tests would be difficult to execute if you were relaxed in your backyard, but on the side of the road, with traffic rushing by, the chaotic pattern  of emergency lights flashing and your growing sense of disorientation all pile-on to make them much more difficult.

The officer may then ask you to take a breath test or return to the station for a blood test. Refusing to take the test is a violation of Tennessee's implied consent law, and will result in the automatic suspension of your license for a year.

This is a separate offense from the potential DUI charge you could face, and if you need to keep your driving privileges to maintain a job, you need to request a hearing with the Tennessee Department of Safety to attempt to obtain a restricted license. Your attorney can explain the process and describe your options and possible outcomes.

A DUI is a serious charge, and conviction can affect your ability to keep or obtain a job, go to school or even find a place to live. It is important that you act to minimize the consequences.

Source: tn.gov, "DUI Offenses," page visited September 2015.

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