Tennessee is becoming increasingly harsher on people that drink and drive. Even a first-time offense may have serious consequences for both your personal and professional life.
DUI laws in Tennessee
A DUI is a misdemeanor in Tennessee, specifically a class A misdemeanor. In other words, the state regards driving under the influence as a relatively serious offense but not as far-reaching as a felony.
The court proceedings for DUI occur at the criminal court in the county where law enforcement officers arrested you. At your first appearance (arraignment), you will be formally charged with a DUI and given the opportunity to enter a plea. You can either plead guilty or not guilty.
If you plead guilty, the judge will sentence you at that time. If you plead not guilty, the case will be set for trial, where a jury will hear evidence from both sides and decide whether or not to convict you of a DUI.
Penalties for a first DUI in Tennessee
The punishment for a first DUI conviction in Tennessee includes a fine of up to $1,500, a time not exceeding 11 months and 29 days in jail and a driver’s license suspension of up to one year. The court may also require you to attend an alcohol education program and complete community service.
Besides the jail term, fines, license revocation and community service, a DUI will also show up on your criminal record. This can have an impact on your future employment prospects, as many employers now conduct background checks on job applicants.
A DUI can also cause problems if you plan to travel outside the United States. Many countries, including Canada, will not allow you to enter if you have a DUI on your record unless you convince the immigration officer that you are legally rehabilitated.
Lastly, your insurance rates are likely to go up after a DUI conviction. Your insurance company may even cancel your policy altogether.
If you are facing your first DUI charge, there may be defenses available to you. For example, if the police did not have probable cause to stop your vehicle in the first place, the court may dismiss any evidence they obtained. Similarly, if the breathalyzer test was not administered properly or the results were inaccurate for some reason, this, too, could lead to the judge dropping your case.