KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – 59,000 drivers in the state of Tennessee have more than one driving under the influence conviction, according to the Tennessee chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
In Knox County, officials say they try to be vigilant when finding and prosecuting DUI offenders, but it’s those who are repeat-offenders that wreak the most frustration.
Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said her office receives many repeat offender cases, despite the fact that the number of DUIs have decreased.
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Allen said her office tries to be very vigilant when prosecuting DUI offenders, hoping that many learn from the first-offense punishments.
A typical first-time DUI offender in Tennessee gets 48 hours in jail, their driver’s license revoked for one year, a few hundred dollars in fines and, what Allen believes is a useful deterrent, an ignition interlock system installed in the driver’s car after they do get their driver’s license back.
The ignition interlock system requires a driver to test their blood alcohol content before starting the vehicle. If the driver has any trace of alcohol in their system, the interlock prevents them from driving.
Allen said many first-time offenders do learn their lesson.
She said that when her office receives a repeat offender, or even an offender who drives sober while revoked because of a DUI, prosecutors will give the offender the maximum penalties the law allows.
“Because you have demonstrated a repeated behavior of having no regard for the law, then we increase your punishments and treat you more significantly every time you come in here with more fines, more costs, more jail time,” Allen said.
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Another tool the DA’s office uses for repeat DUI offenders is adding them to the Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender (HMVO) list.
Allen said if a person is caught driving and they are on the HMVO list, they are charged with a felony.
The DA’s office can request someone to be on the HMVO list if they’ve had three DUIs within five years, or six DUIs within 10 years.
Mary Clifton, who lost her son to a first-offense drunk driver in 2017, said the laws need to be harsher to prevent someone from getting their third, fourth or fifth DUI.
Allen believed drinking and driving laws has changed more than most other laws.
She said those who have had several DUI’s have no disregard for the laws whatsoever.
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The Tennessee legislature had several bills modifying the DUI laws for the 2019 session.
There are many lessons that stem from drunk driving, most of them tragic. One in particular has drunk-driving victim Jacqui Saburido at the center of the state of Texas’ push to educate about and stop drunk driving. Just recently, Jacqui Saburido, the face of the famous national anti-drinking and driving campaign, died.