Sheriff: DUI laws strong; treatment needed

By Andrea Agardy

Coffee County is aggressive in its enforcement and prosecution of violations of the state’s Driving Under the Influence (DUI) law, according to Sheriff Steve Graves, but the problem is not showing any signs of going away.

“There’s a saying, ‘If you steal something you might get a break, but if you get a DUI, you can forget about it,” he said. “I am proud of the way our district attorney and judges handle DUI cases in this county.”

Graves said his officers spend a great deal of their time on DUI enforcement, estimating that more than one-third of his deputies’ man-hours are spent on DUI-related incidents. DUI is a year-round problem, according to the sheriff, although the number of arrests does tend to increase around the holidays and special events, like Bonnaroo.

Some individuals have been arrested for DUI repeatedly, despite the stiffer sentences that come along with each subsequent conviction.

“They don’t listen,” Graves said.

The sentence for a first DUI conviction includes:

A jail sentence of at least 48 hours and up to 11 months, 29 days. The minimum time served increases to seven days for defendants convicted of DUI with a blood alcohol count of .20 or higher.

License revocation for one year

A fine of at least $350 and as much as $1,500

Drug and alcohol treatment at the judge’s discretion

The sentence for a second DUI conviction includes:

A jail sentence of 45 days to 11 months, 29 days

License revocation for two years

A fine between $600 and $3,500

Drug and alcohol treatment at the judge’s discretion.

The sentence for a third DUI conviction includes:

A jail sentence of a minimum of 120 days up to as long as 11 months, 29 days.

Mandatory fines of at least $1,100 to a maximum of $10,000

License revocation from six to 10 years

Alcohol and drug treatment

DUIs in Tennessee are prosecuted as misdemeanors through the third offense, after which the charge becomes a Class E felony.

The sentence for a fourth and subsequent DUI convictions includes:

One year of jail time, with a minimum of 150 consecutive days served

Mandatory fines between $3,000 and $15,000

License revocation for eight years

Alcohol and drug treatment.

In addition to the legal consequences that come along with continued DUI convictions, individuals convicted of a fourth DUI are subject to being declared habitual motor vehicle offenders, a designation sought by the district attorney’s office and declared by a judge.

Coffee County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Ridner said individuals convicted of three or more of a laundry list of traffic offenses – including DUI – within a three year-period can be subject to the state’s habitual motor vehicle offender law.

Once a judge issues that declaration against an individual, “the (driver’s license) is immediately surrendered and they’re prohibited from operating a vehicle for a certain period of time, depending on their record,” Ridner said. “Violation of that (the habitual motor vehicle offender act) becomes a felony offense.” …

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Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 9:32 am