All About DUI or DWI in Tennessee

By Sam J Meyers

DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances. It has also been called DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and OUI. Operating a vehicle with a .08% blood alcohol level or higher is illegal in all states in the US.

A DUI sounds pretty open and closed doesn't it...Driving Under the Influence. Pretty straightforward, right?

Let's look into this seemingly simple definition of DUI in more elaborate detail to demonstrate some possible areas where an astute attorney can attack a DUI charge.

Driving Requirement

The requirement of driving or operating implies that the operator of the vehicle must have some sort of control or command of the vehicle. Guilt or innocence may hang on whether the defendant was actually "driving" in a given circumstance. What if she or he was just sitting behind the wheel of a car but the motor was off? What if the defendant was just napping there? What if the keys were in their pants pocket and not in the starter? What if that car was out of gas and could not be started even if he or she wanted? What if it was idling? What if it was in the process of being towed? Courts nationwide have considered various scenarios to ascertain whether or not the necessary control over the vehicle was present and the outcomes vary state to state and by the individual circumstances. Vehicle Requirement Cars, trucks and vans are clearly considered to be vehicles for drunk-driving law purposes. However, some have been convicted of drunk driving while operating motorboats, mopeds, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, electric wheelchairs, golf carts, bicycles and ATVs, although the vehicle types that fall under this umbrella differ by state. Intoxication One way prosecutors take a shot at trying toprove driver intoxication is through scientific testing of the amount of alcohol in ones body, usually by analyzing the breath or blood. These tests are usually administered by a machine, such as the Breathalyzer. In every single state, a person with a blood-alcohol content over 0.08% is considered intoxicated.

Implied-consent laws create the legal presumption that if one takes advantage of the privilege of operating a vehicle, she or he automatically consents to a chemical testing to determine his or her blood alcohol concentration. If a driver refuses to take blood-alcohol test, his or her driver's license may be retracted or suspended.

Blood-alcohol concentration test results over the legal limit are usually presumed to be proof of intoxication. However, defendants may challenge the conclusiveness of the results by showing irregularities in the test administration or problems with the materials used for testing. Your lawyer may recommend retesting of the defendant's breath sample. He may be able to obtain exclusion of the original breath sample test results from the case or even dismissal of the case.

Other types of evidence used by prosecuting attorneys to show intoxication include drivers' statements, witness and police observations of behavior and driving patterns of circumstantial evidence. An example of applicable circumstantial evidence is that a the accused, before driving, spent the afternoon at a party where drinking games were engaged in.

Police also gather important evidence of intoxication by administering tests at the scenes of traffic stops. Common field sobriety tests include:

* Finger-to-nose test

* One-legged stand

* Walk-and-turn test

* Horizontal-gaze-nystagmus test

* Picking up coins

* Counting backwards

* Reciting the alphabet

* Throwing and/or catching a ball


Driving is the basis of the American lifestyle, permeating every activity we do. We counton driving to get to work, to get together with, to run errands and to take a vacation. Licensed drivers drive adolescents, people with physical disabilities and seniors to important appointments and activities. A drunk-driving conviction can bring a screeching halt to your life. If you face a potential problem with driving under the influence, a lawyer can be a proxy for you and help defend your interests and those of your family.

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