“Strict” law for underage DUI drivers in Tennessee
Driving while intoxicated, also known as driving under the influence, is always a serious criminal offense to be charged with. A DUI offense for a juvenile is even more serious in Tennessee. That is because, if you are under 21 years of age and are stopped while driving in Tennessee and are found to have been drinking and to have an alcohol concentration level in your blood of at least .02 percent (considered a “negligible amount”), you can be arrested and charged under the “strict” law for “underage driving while impaired.” If you have been using marijuana or another drug that affects your nervous system, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, you can also be arrested, even if the drug in question is one that has been prescribed by a doctor.
Tennessee is not alone in treating underage DUI in this manner. The fact is, the majority of states have a “strict” law for drivers under 21 years of age. This new trend has been traced to the realization of the states that DUI incidents increasingly involved underage drivers.
Persons between ages 16 and 18 who are arrested for underage driving while impaired, and who are brought to court, may be found guilty of the commission of a delinquent act. The penalties include driver’s license suspension for at least one year and a $250 fine. The performance of community service may also be imposed, the time length within the discretion of the court.
Persons between ages 18 and 21 who are found guilty will be deemed to having committed a Class A misdemeanor, the penalties for which are the same as those inflicted for a delinquent act. A person under age 21 who had an alcohol concentration level in the blood of at least .08 percent will be subject to the penalties imposed on someone over 21 charged with a similar offense.
There exist many different options for juveniles arrested for DUI, involving such strategies as the suppression at trial of incriminating evidence that was wrongfully gathered, to pre-trial intervention. Although a DUI juvenile may face tougher statutory liability standards, the arresting officer’s standard of care is equally greater.
The defenses available, which are many (including lack of probable cause for arrest, the alcohol testing device not being properly calibrated, and wrong procedures being followed by the arresting officers), may well allow you to move for dismissal of the charges, or to seek lesser charges (what is referred to as “plea bargaining”). A lesser charge may prevent the DUI charge from appearing on your criminal record for any number of years, as well as saving a considerable amount of money in increased insurance costs accompanying a juvenile DUI conviction.
If you are an underage driver and have been arrested for juvenile DUI, or if you have a son or daughter who has been so arrested, you need to understand the complexity and severity of the charge. You should immediately contact an experienced DUI juvenile attorney, who will investigate the facts of your case and determine the best defense strategy to pursue.