Three new laws went into effect last year that stiffen penalties for repeat DUI offenders with four or more convictions on their record. These new laws are among the latest steps the legislature and law enforcement are taking to reduce the number of DUI accidents in Tennessee.
Statistics gathered by Mothers Against Drunk Driving show that in 2013, there were 13,150 DUI arrests in the state. MADD data also shows that there are 59,000 3rd time offenders and just over 17,300 5th time offenders in Tennessee. Reducing accidents and fatalities are the reasons these changes became law. Car accident lawyers in Tennessee see many cases involving repeat DUI offenders. The changes to the law are now in effect and thus far they appear to be reducing the rates of drunk driving and automobile accidents in Tennessee.
From Class E to Class C Felony
Previously, repeat offenders could face felony charges and prison sentences of between 1-6 years. The changes to the law mean that a 6th offense is now considered a class C felony that carries the potential for between 3-15 years in prison. Further, those with 4 or more convictions are now classified as persistent offenders which means the courts can issue stiffer fines and requirements for rehabilitation. These changes make it easier for prosecutors to seek the maximum ranges allowed for by the statutes.
Changes to the law also mean that those who are charged with DUI or charged with vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, or aggravated vehicular homicide must submit fingerprints to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. If the individual is convicted, these fingerprints will be filed with the National Crime Information Center. This information is readily accessible to officers in patrol cars and can be accessed if the driver is involved in a crash. This will make it easier for officers to enter this information on their arrest reports and for prosecutors to review the offender’s record of convictions.
Mandatory Interlock Ignition
While interlock ignition systems are commonly required following a DUI conviction, the new law makes them mandatory unless the courts have a compelling reason not to require them. Drivers with ignition interlock systems installed on their vehicle will not be able to remove them until they have had 120 sober days. As before, these devices must be installed and removed by an installer approved by the State of Tennessee.