Three new DUI laws in Tennessee in 2016

Before you indulge in the bottle of wine you just bought at the grocery store, know that a series of new drunk driving laws just took effect.

Those laws strengthen penalties for repeat offenders, require background checks to detect prior DUI arrests and mean more drunk drivers will have special ignition devices installed on their vehicles.

Stiffer penalties

Until now, DUI convictions for a fourth offense or greater were all classified as E felonies, carrying a potential jail sentence of one to six years.

One of the new laws that became effective July 1, 2016, however, elevates a sixth offense DUI to a class C felony and increases the possible punishment to a sentence of three to 15 years.  Drunk drivers who have prior DUI convictions will face more severe penalties. The Tennessee General Assembly has enacted a new law that amends Tennessee Code Annotated §55-10-402 and enhances the way Tennessee punishes offenders with multiple DUI convictions. These changes will apply only to those who commit an offense on or after July 1, 2016. Previously, a conviction for a 4th offense or higher DUI was a Class E Felony. A Class E Felony carries a punishment of 1-6 years.  Starting on July 1, while a 4th or 5th offense conviction for DUI will remain a Class E Felony, a person who commits a 6th or subsequent offense will be sentenced as a Class C Felon. A Class C Felony is punishable by 3-15 years in the penitentiary.

To read the new law, click here. 

Fingerprint filing

Another law going that became effect July 1, 2016 requires that anyone charged with DUI, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide be fingerprinted.

Those fingerprints must be submitted within five days to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

If the person is convicted, those fingerprints must then be filed within a week with the National Crime Information Center.

That law was inspired by a Mississippi traffic crash that killed two Shelby County students.

The driver who killed the two had five convictions for first-offense DUI and was out on bond for a sixth.

Because of the fatal incident, it was discovered that several Mississippi towns and counties had failed to properly report the driver’s criminal history so that it could be logged into the national crime database.

That database is accessible in patrol cars of law enforcement officers across the country to assist in checking criminal backgrounds of arrestees.

Ignition device change

The law that will perhaps have the greatest impact makes an ignition interlock device mandatory — unless judges find reasons for exception.

A new section of the law requires compliance-based removal of the device. 

If an offender is ordered to install and use the interlock, the device will not be removed until the offender has 120 clean days. 


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