Feds threaten funding loss if TN underage DUI law stands

“I mean, $60 million is a lot of money,” says Gov. Bill Haslam. He is right. To anyone, that amount sounds almost mythical. But how much is Tennessee’s right to set its own criminal laws worth?

The National Highway Traffic Administration is threatening to withhold its federal funding from Tennessee because it doesn’t agree with the state’s unique underage DUI laws. This threat could mean a change to BAC limits for drivers ages 18-20.

The state’s regulators have until Oct. 1 to make a decision. Current underage DUI law says that a driver must have a BAC level of 0.08 or above in order to be charged. That goes against the NHTSA’s recommendation of a 0.02 BAC limit in such cases.

Tennessee’s relatively less strict underage DUI limit is new to the state this year — and it seems as though the law might be short-lived. But that depends on the governor’s and state lawmakers’ decision in the face of this new funding threat.

Haslam reportedly wants to try to convince the NHTSA to wait on any serious decisions until the state’s lawmakers can get together and rethink the underage DUI laws. Supporters of the new law claim that they were actually trying to create stricter laws by increasing the severity of sentencing in underage cases.

Laws change. The criminal justice system is complicated. Someone who is accused of driving under the influence very likely not only feels worried but confused, too. Finding a DUI defense lawyer whom you can trust can provide some stress relief and needed guidance.

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