While you may have grown up hearing the warnings and the stories of tragedies that followed someone's decision to drive after drinking, you knew you were smarter than that. You know your limits, and you are always in control.
Nevertheless, the officer who pulled you over said he smelled the alcohol on your breath. This was all he needed to ask you to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test. Now you are facing your first DUI charge.
Why am I being charged?
When you received your driver's license, you gave your consent to police agencies to test your blood if police ever pulled you over under suspicion of drunk driving. If you refuse, police may base their arrest on other factors:
- Your driving: Did you swerve across lanes, drive too slowly or run a stop sign?
- Your breath: Did it smell like alcohol or like anything that would mask the smell of alcohol (gum, mints)?
- Your eyes: Were they glassy, bloodshot or dilated?
- Your car: Did you have an open or empty alcohol container in the vehicle?
- Your hands: Did you have difficulty finding your registration or removing your license from your wallet?
- Your words: Did you admit you had been drinking?
A BAC test of .08 may confirm an officer's suspicion, but without it, police may still testify to your condition based on these clues. Refusing the BAC test usually results in the court revoking your license for at least one year.
What are the penalties you could be facing?
In addition to dealing with the embarrassment of the night's events, you may be worried about what will happen next. Will you have to surrender your license? Will there be a fine to pay? Will you serve time in jail?
While many states consider a first-time offense as little more than a traffic violation, in Tennessee, a conviction for your first offense means mandatory time in jail in addition to possible fines and other potential penalties:
- At least forty-eight hours (up to 11 months and 29 days) in jail
- A fine between $350 and $1,500
- Loss of driving privileges for one year
- Mandatory alcohol and drug treatment
- Ignition Interlock Device after your license is reinstated
If your BAC was extremely high, .20 or greater, your sentence and fines will be greater. Additionally, if other circumstances existed - for example, if you were involved in an accident or had a child in the car with you - the court may impose more serious penalties.
Someone to protect your rights
After your arrest, it will be too late to undo things you have said or done in front of police. However, the sooner you have legal counsel, the less severe your penalties may be.
An attorney with extensive experience in DUI defense will explain your legal options, carefully examine the evidence against you and work to curtail the negative consequences of your arrest.