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DUI myths: unusual ways to be charged with a DUI in Tennessee

Posted November 30, 2015 - DUI Cases

Nashville DUI lawyer Lee Martin explores DUI myths and usual ways to be charged with a DUI under Tennessee law.  Most people around Nashville know that I am a DUI attorney and often ask me topical questions that concern Tennessee DUI laws.  I am often shocked to learn that many people are often shocked to learn many things that I take for granted.  With that in mind, I am posting some these DUI myths and facts in this blog post.

You don’t have to be drinking to be convicted of a DUI under Tennessee Law

This is a subject that I have written and discussed in prior blog posts but it is still an issue worth discussing further.  It is a popular myth that you can only be charged with a DUI if you have been drinking alcohol.  This makes perfect sense because DUI’s are synonymous with drunken driving.  In fact, most government anti-DUI ads exclusively focus on these types of drunken driving cases.  In short, any substance that impairs your central nervous system could be the grounds for a TN DUI conviction.  This could include a number of substances ranging from prescription drugs, illegal drugs, and even over-the-counter medications.  These types of cases are a point of emphasis with the local law enforcement and have risen dramatically over the past few years.  If you are taking medication, please be careful and read all disclaimers before driving.  If there is any doubt, please do not drive.  It could save you a great deal of time and effort in the end.

You don’t have to be caught in the act of driving

This is one of the most misunderstood of the DUI myths.  Tennessee law only requires that the motorist be in “physical control” of motorized vehicle in order to be convicted of a DUI.  For instance, a person who decided to sleep it off in their car after a night of drinking could still be convicted of a TN DUI if the prosecution could prove that the motorist was in physical control of the automobile.  They would not have to be caught in the physical act of driving.  Factors that the courts will look into are the location of the accused, whether the keys are in the ignition, and if the car’s motor is running.  Tennessee courts have consistently upheld convictions where the defendant was asleep at the wheel with the keys in the ignition.  So if you decide to sleep it off, make sure the keys are not in the ignition and the engine is not running.  Better yet, just call a safe ride home.

Another similar situation arises when the police investigate an automobile accident and the accused is not actually caught in the act of driving.  The issue of physical control can be established with circumstantial evidence.  The police typically prove this element of the offense with an independent witness or statements of the accused.  Again, the government does not have to catch you in the act of driving but they do have to prove that you were in physical control of an automobile while being impaired.  This can be a complicated issue that is often difficult to prove.

You don’t have to be on a public road

Tennessee law provides that a DUI can occur on any premise that is generally frequented by the public at large.  This means that you can be convicted of a DUI in a shopping center, trailer park, apartment complex, or any other facility that is open to the public.  For example, you could not be convicted of a TN DUI if you are only in your on private driveway but you could be convicted of a DUI if you are caught moving your car in a bar parking lot.  The lists of examples are endless but the primary consideration is whether or not the area is open to the public.  Be mindful, it is not where your car ends up (private drive) but it can be where your car has been-an independent witness or police seeing you drive erratically prior to parking.   

TN DUI by consent or allowance

This is the most surprising of all of Tennessee’s DUI laws.  People are stunned when they are arrested for DUI after they let their friend (who is impaired) drive their car.  This is a very controversial aspect of TN’s DUI law because it just seems to be unfair on the face of it.  In fact, Tennessee is only one of seven states who recognize this form of a DUI.  In the future, be careful when out drinking and do not assume that your more sober friend is okay to drive.  You can be held responsible for their actions if they are driving your car and you reasonably should have known that they are impaired.

To learn more about Nashville DUI defense, I encourage you to watch the videos on my home page and read my blog posts.  If you have questions regarding a pending DUI charge in Nashville or the surrounding counties, please give me a call at 615-345-1988.  You have nothing to lose.  One call could make all the difference in the world.

I help good people restore their lives

-Lee Martin is a nationally recognized DUI and criminal defense attorney.  He provides premier legal services by limiting his caseload exclusively to DUI and criminal matters.  Lee knows how to build a solid defense strategy for your upcoming court date.  Let Lee Martin be your choose as your Nashville area DUI and criminal defense lawyer.   If you have pending DUI charges, give him a call at 615-345-1988.

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