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Language of TN DUI law could result in unexpected charge

Don’t drink and drive. That’s an admonition we hear regularly in Tennessee — perhaps more so at this holiday time of year. But it isn’t just drinking and driving that people need to concerned about to avoid the possibility of being charged with driving under the influence.

You see, because of the wording of the relevant code in Tennessee, it’s possible to be charged and convicted of a DUI violation when you might never have expected it to happen. And so we think it might be helpful to provide some insight as to how that could occur.

According to the law, it is prohibited to drive under the influence of any intoxicant, drug or drug producing stimulant. Use of any illegal drug can surely mean trouble. But even prescription or over-the-counter medications could cause impairment and lead to an arrest. If you take a medication that contains any sort of warning against driving, heed it.

The law also doesn’t require that you be in the act of driving to be accused. All it takes is “physical control” of the vehicle. If you have been drinking and are in the driver’s seat and the keys are in the ignition, the argument could be made that you are in physical control of the vehicle, even if you are asleep and the engine isn’t on.

If you are on your own private land or driveway, you might be safe from a DUI charge. But nearly any area where the public has access is open to possible police action. If you have been drinking and go out to the parking lot just to move your car to another spot, you could be subject to arrest.

Allowing someone who is impaired to drive your vehicle could lead to you being charged. Tennessee code § 55-10-202 says if you are a “party to the crime of DUI” you can be found as guilty as the person who actually commits the infraction.

Because of the latitude the law gives to authorities to act it is clear that DUI charges may be brought under totally unexpected circumstances. And that makes working with experienced legal counsel all the more important.

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