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What you need to know about TN vehicular assault charges

In prior posts, we've discussed the strict penalties for even a first-time DUI conviction in Tennessee. The penalties for second, third and subsequent DUI convictions increase correspondingly, with the most serious consequences for repeat offenders.

What happens, however, when a DUI also involves serious injury? In this post, we'll discuss the definition of vehicular assault and the serious consequences that come as result.

Tennessee Code Section 39-13-106 covers vehicular assault. The law says that one commits vehicular assault in Tennessee when he or she, while intoxicated, "recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another person by the operation of a motor vehicle." A first-offense vehicular assault conviction is a Class D felony in our state, and it brings a minimum mandatory jail sentence of 48 consecutive hours.

A first-offense vehicular assault also brings a one-year license suspension, court costs and fines, and no opportunity for a restricted driver's license. Subsequent offenses, and the addition of other alcohol-related offenses, come with more stringent penalties.

A second-offense vehicular assault conviction comes with a two-year mandatory license revocation and includes additional jail time. Third offenses include a mandatory revocation period of three years, during which time the offender is not allowed to operate a vehicle on the state's roadways (no provisional or restricted license is available).

When someone convicted of vehicular assault has prior alcohol-related offenses (such as DUI, vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular homicide or vehicular assault), the penalties are even more severe. For example, the mandatory minimum jail sentence jumps from 48 hours to 45 days if the person has a single prior conviction of any alcohol-related offense. That time increases to 120 days if there are two priors for alcohol-related offenses, and to 150 days for three previous convictions.

Keep in mind that these are just the mandatory minimums, and jail time can be between one and five years for vehicular assault. With such serious consequences on the table, it's clear to see why an aggressive defense is necessary against vehicular assault charges.

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