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What are the penalties for drunk driving offenses in Tennessee?

The penalties for offenses related to drunk driving in Tennessee range from the suspension of drivers licenses to up to 30 years in jail, depending on the severity of the charges and the status of convictions. One of harshest sentences can be handed down in a case when someone is convicted of DUI with child endangerment, which occurs when someone is convicted of driving drunk with a child under 18 in the vehicle.

Convictions for refusing to take a blood alcohol test depend on the number of offenses on the record. A first offense means a revoked license for one year. Revocation of licenses can be longer if incidents included a crash that caused bodily harm or death to another.

DUI convictions can also come with sentences that include jail time, community service or probation, required participation in treatment programs, payment of restitution, payment of fines and required installation of an ignition lock device on vehicles. A first offense could end up costing someone over $5,000. Sentencing becomes more severe with each additional offense; jail time increases and fines can reach thousands of dollars.

If someone is convicted of DUI along with vehicular assault, jail time can be as high as 12 years and loss of license can last up to five years. Vehicle homicide charges can result in loss of license of up to 10 years.

Because the consequences of drunk driving convictions are so high -- particularly when you look at repeated offenses -- a strong criminal defense strategy is important. Understanding how to defend against false charges or negotiate charges to a more appropriate level can help you protect your future and your freedom.

Source: Department of Safety and Homeland Security, "DUI Offenses," accessed Aug. 07, 2015

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