In Tennessee as in all states, a reduction in driving ability caused by taking alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescribed medicine is a crime. And like we see in other states, should a police officer consider that a driver (regardless of age) is showing signs of impaired operation of the vehicle, they are allowed to charge the driver with a DUI. If you or a loved one has received an underage DUI, reach out to a Memphis DUI defense lawyer soon and we’ll fight side by side to make sure your family has the best result possible.
Penalties for Underage DUI Charges in Tennessee
Where Tennessee differs from some states is in how it punishes underage drinking and driving. Whereas in other states an underaged driver’s first DUI offense is treated as a civil offense, Tennessee treats underage and adult DUIs both as misdemeanor offenses, though an underage driver’s offense is called a “delinquent act.”
That said, often the police officer will stop an erratic driver to administer a breathalyzer test. In that case, laws differentiate between adults and minors on the BAC permitted. Adults may have a BAC of 0.07% if their driving is not impaired, but at 0.08% it becomes a criminal misdemeanor. Minors have a limit of 0.02%.
If the underaged driver is convicted, they’ll face a one-year license suspension, a fine of up to $250, and the possibility of community service, but not of jail time or probation. Unlike in Connecticut, where minors convicted of DUIs can apply for a special permit while their license is suspended, in Tennesee if that same underage person is found driving again, it will be considered a second crime. This is particularly concerning for a state like Tennessee, where car use is a daily necessity.
Repeat offenses carry even heavier penalties, and heavier yet if the minor caused an accident or injury while driving drunk. Being convicted twice in 10 years will involve a two-year license suspension, and if the same driver is convicted a third time, their license may be suspended for up to 10 years.
What Defenses Can a Minor Charged with a DUI Use?
There are several different tactics a lawyer might use to defend against an underage DUI.
Your lawyer might attempt to question whether the officer should have stopped you at all. Although police have a certain amount of leeway when deciding to stop someone, they must at least do so because of a traffic violation or on reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime.
Your lawyer may also question the validity of the breathalyzer test, as calibration issues, mistakes on the officer’s part, or a medical condition you have can all lead to an incorrect result.
And although officers are allowed to charge you with intoxicated driving based on their perception of your impairment, your lawyer can still argue that the officer’s perception was mistaken and that what the officer perceived was misinterpreted, and there is no proof to convict you.