Tennessee DUI law – Can I be Charged after 1 Drink?

DUI laws in Tennessee are vast, complex, and technical. A conviction can affect your license, employment, and reputation with your family and community. If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, in the Knoxville, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, or Pigeon Forge areas, then you should contact a Tennessee DUI lawyer. Tennessee DUI attorneys can guide you through the intricate procedural maze of criminal law and force the state to prove its heavy burden under Tennessee law and the United States Constitution. People seemed to be confused about how much a person can drink before he or she is legally allowed to drive in the state of Tennessee. So, can a person legally drive if he or she has had only one drink? The short answer is maybe.

Under Tennessee law, it is unlawful for any person to drive or be in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the state, or on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex, or any other premises which is generally frequented by the public at large, while:

• The alcohol concentration in such person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (.08 %) or more; or
• Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-401 (2007).

There are two different avenues the state may pursue to obtain a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction. To find a person guilty under the first definition above, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) equaled or exceeded .08 % at the time he or she drove on public roads. Every state has a different blood alcohol level that constitutes drunk driving so there in not uniformity across state lines. In fact, special interest groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have successfully lobbied the state legislature into lowering what BAC constitutes DUI in Tennessee.

The state may also pursue a DUI conviction under the second definition. The second definition is completely independent of the first definition. This definition does not refer to any particular BAC. Instead, it focuses on whether the person is “under the influence” of alcohol or a drug while driving on public roads. If the person’s driving is impaired by the consumption of alcohol, he or she can be found guilty of DUI.

Instead of presenting BAC evidence to the judge or jury, the prosecution usually admits evidence about the person’s driving and alcohol consumption. Witnesses such as police officers describe the illegal driving behavior that caused the vehicle to be pulled over. The state usually presents evidence that the person was not able to perform field sobriety tests. Testimony from other witnesses may be given about how much the person had to drink that day. If the state proves that the person was “driving under the influence” beyond a reasonable doubt, then a person may be convicted for DUI in Tennessee. Alcohol influences all people differently. A person’s impairment for each drink depends upon numerous factors including body weight, how much food was consumed that day, and strength of the drink. If a smaller person becomes impaired due to one drink, then he or she might not be capable of driving under the statute. If you are charged with DUI lawyer Tennessee, contact a for more information.