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Your Knoxville DUI Case: The Basics

Your little girl is about to start college, and you're worried. You know she'll have fun at UT because you did when you were there. Still, the possibility of her drinking and driving almost makes you want to ship her off to Greenville for seminary at Bob Jones ... (almost!). Hopefully she'll meet up with the good crowd -- the Peyton Manning types. Just in case, however, before your angel starts college, educate her on the process of a DUI arrest in Knoxville. This guide will give you the basics of a DUI arrest and help you educate your children so they can make good decisions.

Testing and the Legal Limit

If an officer has "reasonable grounds" to believe that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the officer may request a blood test. A driver may not operate a vehicle if he/she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If tested for blood alcohol concentration (BAC), a driver is presumed by law to be Driving Under the Influence if his/her BAC tests at or above 0.08%. If under age 21, a driver isn't allowed to have a BAC at or above 0.02%.

If a driver refuses to take a test, his/her license will be revoked for a year. And that's not the end of it; the driver can still be found guilty of DUI based on other evidence. If this happens, the driver will: 1) serve the suspension; 2) receive the criminal conviction and punishment; and possibly 3) be required to use an ignition interlock device (see below).


Persons arrested for DUIs often get taken to the Knox County Jail in downtown Knoxville. You can find an arrestee's Bond Amount by searching the Knox County Inmate Population page. Call (865) 215-2476 to be sure of his/her location and for detailed directions on how to bail him/her out. For general information on arrests, securing an attorney, and court procedures, see FindLaw's basic resources on criminal law cases.

Legal Consequences of a DUI

First-timers will serve at least 48 hours behind bars, and possibly up to a year. You will also have to pay a fine of $350 - $1,500 and work three full days picking up litter on the side of the road. If your BAC is at or above 0.20%, the minimum jail sentence is 7 days.

With a second or third offense, the length of the minimum jail sentence increases, but the crime is still a misdemeanor (relatively minor offense), and the maximum sentence remains the same. The fines will increase. Additionally, the government can seize your vehicle under Tennessee Code Section 55-10-414. See the State's outline of DUI offenses.

You'll be ordered to serve time on probation. The terms of probation include either: 1) a form of alcohol and drug education/treatment; or 2) participation in a victims impact panel program. In Knoxville, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) generally conducts the panels on the first Monday evening of odd-numbered months. They have historically been located in the Juvenile Court Building at 3323 Division Street.

There are greater legal consequences if there was a minor in the car or if anyone suffered an injury as a result of the driver's impaired state. For example, if a person under age 18 is in the car, the law considers this to be child endangerment, a felony.

DUIs are expensive. In addition to criminal fines, the law imposes fees for participating in drug and alcohol treatment, participation in a victim impact panel, using an IID, taking blood tests, and other required activities as you get back on track.

Restricted License

If you have no prior offenses in the last 10 years, you're likely eligible for a restricted license. To receive one, you must apply for it with the trial judge that handled your DUI case or a trial judge in your county of residence. A judge can limit your driving destinations (school, work, etc.) The judge may also condition your driving upon installing an ignition interlock device or IID. If you have one prior DUI, you may apply for a restricted license, but you must first serve 1 year of license revocation.

Ignition Interlock Device

As noted above, a court may also order you to install an IID. This a device that measures your BAC via an in-car breath test, and it would be installed at your expense. If you do not pass a breath test, your vehicle will not start. The Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security's website has a complete list and map of East Tennessee installers. Talk to your attorney for more details.

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