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Tennessee DUI Laws in Plain English

Here is a summary of Tennessee DUI Laws.  I have attempted to provide the most up-to-date version of the Tennessee's DUI laws and penalties in plain English.   If you are currently facing DUI charges, please read the following information.  It should be of great benefit.  Here is a simple explanation of the laws that govern your drunken driving charge(s).

There are two ways you can be charged with a DUI in Tennessee

Although several legal concepts deal with DUI cases, the primary statute is located in T.C.A. Section 55-10-401.  In Tennessee, most violations will occur in its various subsections.  Most experienced DUI lawyers know that this statute defines two separate forms of DUI violations. The first form of DUI violation is referred to as an "appearance and demeanor" DUI and the second form of DUI violation is referred to a "per se" or "unlawful blood alcohol content level" violation.  These are two separate charges.  You can actually be found not guilty under one theory and still be convicted on the other theory.

Appearance and Demeanor Definition

Under this DUI theory, the arresting officer will attempt to prove that you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  The intoxication must impair your ability to drive and the state must prove that your impairment makes you an unsafe driver.  The arresting officer will typically make his case by relying on perceived poor performance of field sobriety tests and driving behavior.  Classic examples given by the DUI officer often include odor of alcohol, slurred speech, blood shot watery eyes, unsteady on the feet, poor driving, and unsatisfactory performance of the field tests.   When a DUI case is made under this theory, it is important that the lawyer fully understand the “ins and outs” of both field sobriety testing, police procedures, and trial techniques.  Remember, this case is made entirely upon the arresting officer’s observations and opinions which can be flawed.  These cases can be won at trial by weakening the state’s case by pointing out the flaws in the field testing procedures.

Per se Definition

To be convicted of a per se violation, you must have an unlawful blood alcohol level.  The current legal limit in Tennessee for most adults is .08.  Here, the prosecutor does not have to prove that you were unsafe driver.  They only have to prove that your blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit while you were in physical control of an automobile.  There are two primary ways in which alcohol content is measured in Tennessee. Blood and breath tests are regularly used in DUI cases throughout Tennessee.  It is essential to understand the science and procedures associated with these tests.  You should never simply accept a number to be accurate even if it is above the legal limit.  A successful challenge to both blood and breath tests can be made.

Legal Alcohol Limits under Tennessee DUI Law

The stated legal limit in the Tennessee is .08.  Logically, most people believe that you must be above the legal limit in order to be convicted of a DUI. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Tennessee law provides that you could still convict a person of a DUI even though they registered below a .08.  However, the prosecutor would still have to prove his case by the above appearance and demeanor standard, which is usually harder to prove especially if the attorney seasoned in DUI defense.

Even if the blood level is above the threshold level of .08, the law provides a 'rebuttable presumption" of guilt for anyone who does register an unlawful blood alcohol level of .08 or greater.

The stated legal limit in Tennessee is .02 if the accused is under the age of twenty-one years old and the stated legal limit in Tennessee is .04 for commercial drivers.

I hope this information helps. If you need help with a DUI charge, give me a call at 615-345-1988.

I help good people restore their lives

-Lee Martin is a Nashville criminal defense lawyer who has gained national recognition as a DUI and criminal defense attorney.  With over a decade of experience, he knows how to get results in DUI cases.  If you are seeking an experienced DUI defense attorney, use his experiences to your advantage.  If you need help with a pending DUI charge, give him a call at 615-345-1988.

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