Tougher Tennessee DUI Laws Take Effect in 2011

By Mike

Several new aspects in Tennessee’s DUI laws will make penalties for drunk driving, and repeated and excessive drunk driving harsher.

One new DUI law that has gone into effect will call for those DUI offenders who register a blood alcohol content higher than .15 percent to install and pay for an ignition interlock device if they want to drive at all.

Another DUI law will require state judges to determine if a DUI suspect is a danger to the community, and therefore be able to deny them bond. This caveat would typically impact those who are arrested for DUI more than once.

The Chattanooga Free Press reports that the new laws are part of a stronger package of drunk driving legislation which lawmakers hope will scare some DUI offenders out of breaking the law again. The trend towards stronger DUI law is certainly a national one, and this latest package only strengthens this trend.

Assistant District Attorney in Hamilton County Kate Lavery is one strong supporter of the new legislation. She said in statements that her hope is that the new laws will decrease the number of DUI offenses.

“We currently have people out on bond that commit vehicular homicide or other DUIs,” she said, referring to the bill that would make it easier to prevent DUI suspects deemed especially dangerous from getting out on bail.

“This will strike right at the heart of our issue,” she said of the new laws.

The ignition interlock devices, which force a driver to take a blood alcohol breath test before they can start a car, will cost offenders about $60 per month. This cost will be mandatory upon conviction.

Under the new legislation, such in-car breath testers will even be possible for first-time DUI offenders. Such a device could be the requirement for some in order to get their license back after a license suspension period or a restricted driving period.

If someone who is convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content over .08 while also having a passenger under the age of 18 will have to have an ignition interlock device installed, even if it is their first offense.

Ignition interlock devices will also be required for cases including an accident resulting in injury, property damage over $400, or if they refuse to take a breath or blood test following a DUI arrest. Again, the in-car breath test could be installed in these cases even if it is a first DUI offense.

Tennessee joins several other states in terms of the strictness of DUI penalties. Eleven other states require an ignition interlock device with a BAC over .15, and 13 state require it it for first-time DUI offenders, according to the Free Press. Other states require the device upon multiple drunk driving convictions.