Memphis Drunk Driving Defense Attorney
Skillful lawyer helps motorists understand Tennessee laws
Approximately 7,000 Tennessee motorists are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) over a given year. If you are one of them, Jack P. Sherman, Attorney at Law in Memphis can help. Drawing on more than 20 years of legal experience, I review police conduct and identify potential defenses for people charged with driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs.
What happens if you refuse a breath test after a DUI stop?
Refusing to submit to a blood-alcohol test after you’ve been stopped on suspicion of drunk driving is not a way to avoid sanctions. Under the doctrine of implied consent, anyone who operates a vehicle on a Tennessee road agrees to submit to a Breathalyzer or another type of lawful sobriety test. Failing to do so results in an automatic license suspension of at last one year, even if you haven’t had a drink.
DUI and implied consent penalties under Tennessee law
Penalties associated with DUI and some related offenses in Tennessee include:
- First offense — If you have not previously been convicted of drunk driving, you usually face a misdemeanor charge where you could spend between 48 hours and nearly 12 months in jail. There is also a maximum $1,500 fine and a one-year license suspension or restriction. The penalty is increased if your BAC was .20 percent or higher. This carries a minimum jail term of seven days.
- Second offense — A second DUI conviction increases the minimum period of incarceration to 45 days. Along with a top fine of $3,500, your license revocation or restriction can last for two years, and you might be required to use an ignition interlock device that won’t let you start your car until you pass a sobriety test.
- Third offense — The low end of the jail term is increased to 120 days when someone accumulates a third DUI, in addition to a fine as high as $10,000.
- Fourth and subsequent offenses — Drunk driving becomes a Class E felony upon a fourth conviction, carrying a sentence of at least 150 days and a fine of between $3,000 and $15,000. You could also lose driving privileges for eight years and might even have your vehicle seized.
- Implied consent violation — Refusing to take a sobriety test on request carries a one-year license suspension the first time and a two-year suspension if it occurs a second time.
My criminal defense experience helps motorists unfamiliar with the criminal justice system understand their options and make informed decisions on how to proceed.
Blood-alcohol limits and the DUI legal process
Most drivers of passenger vehicles in Tennessee are considered legally intoxicated when their blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 percent or higher. However, the limit drops to .04 percent for commercial vehicle operators, and drivers younger than age 21 can be charged with Underage DUI if their BAC is between .02 percent and .08 percent. Though a test result might be critical in a drunk driving case, you could be convicted even if your reading is lower than the relevant legal standard if there are other signs of impairment, such as erratic driving or slurred speech.
Potential defenses to a charge of driving under the influence
You might believe that once your sample shows a BAC over the legal limit, there is no plausible defense to a DUI count. This is not true. As with drug crimes, evidence collected during an improper stop can be excluded at trial. Accordingly, if the police officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion of illegal activity when you got pulled over, your test result should be thrown out. Likewise, a search incident to arrest is allowed only if there is probable cause. My investigation might also discover that a test sample was tainted or handled improperly.
Attorney assists clients accused of driving on a suspended or revoked license
Losing your license following a DUI can make life much more difficult, but taking the risk of driving while your license is suspended or revoked could add to your problems. Operating a vehicle without proper authorization is a Class B misdemeanor that could trigger a fine and up to six months in jail. However, my firm can advise you on obtaining a DUI hardship license, which allows you to use your vehicle to go to work, school and religious services.
Contact an aggressive Tennessee DUI defense lawyer for a free consultation
Jack P. Sherman, Attorney at Law in Memphis represents motorists facing drunk driving charges in Shelby County and throughout the surrounding areas. Please call my firm at 901-233-3474 or contact me online to make an appointment for a free initial consultation.