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Tennessee DUI FAQ’s

dui-faq-murfreesboroTennessee DUI Law: Frequently Asked Questions

If I am arrested for DUI, when should I hire a lawyer?

Upon your arrest, the sooner you hire a DUI lawyer, the better. The longer you wait to hire a lawyer, the more time and evidence is lost. Hire a lawyer as soon as possible so that you can begin strategizing, working through the facts of your case, and building a defense together with your lawyer — instead of sitting around and waiting while the prosecution builds their case.

Is it a good idea to represent myself for a DUI?

In the state of Tennessee, DUI is considered a criminal offense — not a traffic offense. This means that the prosecution will be taking your case seriously. They will have an experienced prosecutor working on your case. You wouldn’t want to hire an attorney who had never defended a DUI case before, and if you defend yourself, you won’t even have that — at least an attorney, even an untested one, is required to be familiar with the laws. A real DUI attorney will understand the subtleties of Tennessee DUI law, and will know what is considered “fair and reasonable” under the law with respect to your arrest. The state has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and to a moral certainty; a DUI lawyer will have the experience and know-how to bargain and reduce your DUI charge, as well as to prepare a defense for your trial.

Will Tennessee courts reduce my DUI charge to reckless driving? 

For some reason, many people think that Tennessee courts will reduce first offenders’ DUI charges to Reckless Driving. This is part of the reason that so many people make the mistake of not hiring a DUI lawyer. Don’t be surprised when your judge makes you enter a plea to DUI — and don’t be unprepared. A lawyer can ensure that court proceedings move in your favor as much as possible, from slight mistakes in the paperwork, omissions from the police report, and any other hitch your case might encounter. Furthermore, an experienced DUI lawyer might even be able to get your charges reduced to reckless driving, something that the average person would not be able to do themselves. Hiring an experienced attorney will greatly increase the chances of reducing your DUI charge to Reckless Driving.

Can I continue to drive my car after I have been arrested for DUI?

In Tennessee, your license is not suspended upon your arrest. Therefore, you can drive until a judge specifically orders your license to be suspended. While your DUI case is pending, you are allowed to drive. The status of your license will probably not change until your case has concluded. If you plead or are found guilty, the minimum suspension time for your driver’s license is one (1) year. Certain extenuating circumstances might allow you to apply for a restricted license that would allow you to drive to work or school, for instance, however.

Will my DUI charge affect my Commercial Driver’s License?

Yes. The first time you are charged with DUI, your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) will be suspended for one (1) year. If you are charged with DUI again, you can never again hold a CDL. There is no restricted or special-circumstance license equivalent for the CDL.

Do I go to jail if I plead guilty to DUI?

Yes. The mandatory minimum penalties for DUI in Tennessee are as follows:

  • 1st offense: loss of driver’s license for 1 year, $350 fine, 48 hours in jail
  • 2nd offense: loss of driver’s license for 2 years, $600 fine, 45 days in jail
  • 3rd offense: loss of driver’s license for 3 years, $1100 fine, 120 days in jail
  • 4th offense: loss of driver’s license for 5 years, $2500 fine, 150 days in jail

The penalties for DUI are severe. A DUI attorney experienced in Tennessee DUI regulations will be able to defend against these types of sever punishments, for instance, by bargaining your charge down to reckless driving in order to avoid jail time and the loss of your driver’s license.

Is DUI a felony or misdemeanor?

In Tennessee, first, second, and third offenses are considered misdemeanors. Fourth offenses and greater are considered felonies. Additional felony charges like vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, and child endangerment are often tacked on to DUI charges.

Will my case be dismissed if I was not read my Miranda rights?

Not necessarily; Miranda Warnings are usually not read until a person is in police custody and being questioned. Still, however, it is possible to exclude certain statements made to officers from consideration at trial. An experienced DUI attorney will be able to assess the relevance to your case of when your Miranda Warnings were read. An experienced DUI lawyer will often be able to exclude certain of your statements from consideration in court based on Miranda violations.

Am I required to acquiesce to a Field Sobriety Test? 

Field Sobriety Tests, or FSTs, are not mandatory in Tennessee; however, your arresting officer will not advise you of this fact when you are pulled over. If you do take the test and do poorly, it can negatively impact your defense. As soon as you are pulled over, the officer is looking for evidence that you are intoxicated. Failing this test constitutes just such evidence.

Are Field Sobriety Tests Accurate? 

FSTs can be inaccurate for many reasons. They are only reliable under the conditions listed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are not scientific tests because the subject and environment are not, and cannot be, controlled for. They are also unscientific because the outcome is decided by your arresting officer’s opinion and judgment, which is subjective. FSTs can therefore often be attacked and suppressed at trail based on the following evidence:

  • FSTs are only valid if instructions were provided BEFORE the test began
  • FSTs are only valid if administered exactly in accordance with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Standards.
  • FSTs are invalid if a person has certain injuries or deformities.
  • FSTs are invalid if not scored based on the objective standard grading process.
  • FSTs are only valid if environmental conditions at the site of your test were proper and in accordance with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations.

A good DUI lawyer can attack the results of your FST based on these guidelines and more.

Can I legally refuse the Breath Test/ Blood Test?

Yes, but there can be negative consequences to refusing these tests. In Tennessee, having a driver’s license is considered a privilege. This privilege is contingent upon your submission to BAC testing. In other words, refusing BAC testing is within your rights as a defendant, but not as a driver. You can still refuse the test, but your license will be suspended for a year under the Implied Consent Law. DUI lawyers generally advise clients to refuse the test only if they are extremely intoxicated, since a violation of Implied Consent law does not carry a minimum jail sentence like DUI violation does.

Can I get my own BAC test?

Yes. If you are pulled over for DUI, the arresting officer chooses your BAC test; however, you have the right to request a separate test (at your own expense). If the officer does not allow you to obtain your own test, the officer’s own test can be excluded. The officer is not required to tell you that you can obtain your own BAC. They are also not required to tell you where and how to obtain your own BAC.

What is a Tennessee Implied Consent Violation?

A Tennessee Implied Consent Violation occurs when you are stopped by the police and refuse to submit a sample for BAC testing. The consequence of an Implied Consent Violation is the suspension of your driver’s license for one year. You can be charged with both DUI and an Implied Consent Violation if the officer suspects you are guilty of DUI but does not have the test to prove it because of your Implied Consent Violation.

What is Driving While Impaired (DWI)? 

DWI and DUI are nearly equivalent. In Tennessee, the distinction between DWI and DUI is made based on the age of the arrested person. If the arrested person is under the age of twenty-one (21), they will be charged with DWI instead of DUI. DWI is therefore also referred to in Tennessee as Underage DWI.

How long will my DUI charge stay on my record if I plead guilty? 

Your DUI charge will stay on your criminal record for the rest of your life. Currently, in Tennessee, DUI charges cannot be  expunged from your criminal record. Some substitute charges (for instance, Reckless Endangerment) can be expunged, however. You should only plead guilty to DUI if your attorney has advised you to do so.

Hire Murfreesboro DUI Lawyers

At Turner Law Offices, P.C., our team of attorneys has years of experience working with DUI cases across a wide range of circumstances. When facing DUI charges, your best bet is start the legal process with the help of a legal representative who knows exactly how to work toward the best possible resolution. Call today, or go online to set up your free initial consultation, and meet with a skilled lawyer who’s ready and waiting to guide you to the justice you deserve.

(615) 898-0607

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