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Before you tailgate, be aware of the possible DUI penalties

With fall's cooler temperatures comes a welcome respite from the heat. And, of course, now it's football season.

You may be staying in town for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga games (which begin on September 16), heading up Interstate 75 to Knoxville to watch the University of Tennessee, or taking a road trip to Nashville to see the Titans play at Nissan Stadium. Even if you're just watching on TV, we all understand that football is a big deal across America, especially here in the South.

It's not only watching the football action itself that is part of the experience of taking in a game, however. Tailgating is oftentimes an all-day event, involving friends, family, lots of food, and even more alcohol. The party atmosphere of tailgating is a welcome respite because it lets us forget the stresses in our everyday lives for a short while and just have fun while cheering on our favorite teams.

That being said, it is vitally important to remember that good times must be balanced with responsibility; getting behind the wheel after you've been imbibing most of the day can result in an accident, arrest, criminal charge, conviction and serious legal ramifications. Try to keep in mind the possible penalties from a first time - or subsequent DUI - when you are out celebrating your favorite team.

First-time DUI

Tennessee treats even first-time DUI offenders harshly. Every person convicted of their first DUI will spend at least two days in jail; for an aggravated DUI (where the person's BAC was .20 or higher), there is a minimum mandatory sentence of one week. That penalty is only the starting point for jail time. Depending on the circumstances, first-time offenders could spend nearly a year behind bars.

First-time DUI charges come with steep fines - ranging from $350 to $1500 - as well as court costs, license suspension and mandatory drug/alcohol education.

Subsequent DUIs

Second, third and other subsequent DUI convictions bring even harsher penalties. A second DUI conviction comes with a mandatory jail sentence of 45 days, and a third will result in at least 120 days in jail. Fourth DUIs get an automatic year in jail. Fines are also more expensive for subsequent charges, starting at $600 and going up to $15,000. A subsequent DUI charge comes with a much longer license revocation period as well, with a minimum of two years, ranging up to a permanent suspension with no restricted licensing options.

As you can see, the penalties of a DUI conviction are very serious. This is why, if you are charged with DUI, vehicular assault or another related crime, you need a vigorous defense strategy to minimize the consequences you will face. The best solution though is to avoid driving if you have been drinking while cheering on your favorite team.

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