One of the most pressing questions individuals face when charged with a DUI in Tennessee is whether they’ll lose their license. This concern is not entirely misplaced, as it represents the potential upheaval of daily life, restricting their ability to commute to work, school, or other necessary locations. In this blog, we will dispel some common misconceptions and equip you with accurate information about Tennessee DUI charges, implied consent violations, and their potential impact on your driving privileges.
DUI Charge vs. Conviction: Unpacking the Misconceptions
There’s a common misconception that simply being charged with a DUI or even an implied consent violation equates to an automatic loss of your license. This belief could not be further from the truth. It’s vital to note the difference between being charged and being convicted of a DUI.
The court system distinguishes between a charge and a conviction to ensure due process. When you are charged, it means that the authorities believe there is enough evidence to make a case against you. A conviction, on the other hand, comes after the charge, when a court determines you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Losing your license is a consequence of conviction, not the charge itself.
What About Implied Consent Charges?
In Tennessee, just like in many other states, the law contains an “implied consent” provision. Simply put, if you operate a vehicle in the state, you’ve implicitly agreed to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test if an officer suspects you of DUI. Refusing such a test can lead to an implied consent charge.
But does an implied consent charge mean you automatically lose your license? Not exactly. Like with a DUI charge, it’s a conviction that triggers license suspension, not merely the charge itself. A first-time implied consent violation can lead to a license suspension of one year.
Remember, the circumstances surrounding each case are unique. Therefore, it is essential to consult with a Tennessee DUI attorney who can provide guidance tailored to your situation.
Driving After A DUI Conviction
So, what happens if you do end up convicted of a DUI or implied consent violation in Tennessee? You might assume that your driving days are over, but that’s not necessarily the case. You’re most likely eligible for what is known as a restricted driver’s license.
A restricted license does not grant the same freedoms as your regular license. However, it does offer some relief from total driving prohibition. The specifics of a restricted license can differ based on your unique circumstances. They usually include one of the following scenarios:
Driving with an ignition interlock alcohol monitoring device
One of these conditions includes having an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. This device requires you to provide a breath sample before you start your vehicle. If the device detects alcohol on your breath, the vehicle won’t start. In addition to the ignition interlock device, you must secure SR-22 insurance. This is a type of insurance for high-risk drivers and is a way for the state to ensure you’re continuously insured.
Driving to designated locations
If the court approves, you might have the opportunity to drive without an interlock device but only to specific designated locations such as work, school, church, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and treatment programs. This option isn’t universally available and only applies under certain circumstances. However, your attorney should discuss this possibility if it may apply in your case.
Your DUI Defense Matters
Whether you keep your license after a DUI charge in Tennessee largely depends on your defense. A competent, experienced legal team can make the difference between a complete loss of driving privileges and a restricted license—or possibly even avoiding a conviction altogether.
At Barnes & Fersten, our Knoxville DUI attorneys are ready to work diligently to fight your DUI charge. With years of experience defending against Tennessee DUI charges, we have the knowledge and skill to advocate for you. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you during this challenging time.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.