Unfortunately, if you’ve been charged with a DUI second offense, the potential penalties aren’t just twice as bad as a DUI first offense. The minimum jail time in Tennessee on a DUI second offense is 45 days, versus just 2 days on a DUI first offense. That’s a 2,250% increase!
The other penalties increase with a second offense as well. The fine increases to a minimum $600 and the loss of license period increases to 2 years. Additionally, an alcohol and drug assessment is required and the assessor’s recommendations, no matter how stringent, must be followed. Add on court costs, increased cost of insurance, and attorney fees and its obvious a second offense DUI is a big deal.
The Good News
Despite the penalties being greater, defending a DUI second in court is very similar to defending a first offense. That is because if your case gets tried to a jury, the jury won’t know you’ve been convicted before.
Only certain prior offense can “come into evidence” in a trial. Prosecutors can’t use the fact that you’ve been convicted of a DUI before to prove that you are guilty of a DUI this time. That’s because a prior conviction is not relevant to the question the jury must answer, “was the defendant impaired while driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle?”
Rehabilitation and Jail Time
Some people who have been charged with DUI second offense have substance abuse problems. If that is the case, it serves the person charged and the community to get help with his or her addiction.
The law allows for a portion of the jail time imposed on a DUI second offense conviction to be served in an inpatient drug and/or alcohol treatment facility. However, there are restrictions on how much time can be awarded and other aspects of this program. Getting a spot in a facility can be difficult and costly, though there are insurance plans and state programs that can help out.
There are times when a DUI second offense can be “reduced” to a DUI first offense. This usually happens when your attorney can identify strong defenses and convince a prosecutor that there are either good legal and factual reasons or good mitigating personal reasons to reduce the charge.
It is not easy to get a second offense reduced to a first. Many people think it should be as simple as asking the prosecutor, but at least in Knoxville and East Tennessee, district attorneys take DUI cases seriously, especially multiple offense DUIs.
Whether any particular negotiated agreement is a “good deal” depends on the facts and law of each case. A reduction to a first offense could be a great result for one client and could also be wisely rejected by another, depending on the circumstances.
Qualifying as a Second Offense
Just because someone has a prior conviction for DUI, does not mean a current charge is a second offense. In order to qualify as a prior for the purpose of making someone a multiple offender, the most recent conviction had to occur within the past ten years. If someone has had no DUI convictions in the past ten years, then any current charge should be a first offense.
Also, if the DUI charge was from out of the State of Tennessee, a lawyer will need to examine the other states statute to make sure it qualifies. He or she should also examine the documentation of any prior judgment of conviction for DUI, since an invalid judgement could be attacked and potentially not count against you.
These are just a few of the considerations when dealing with a DUI second offense charge. We’d be happy to discuss the specifics of your case. Just fill out the case evaluation form or give us a call at (865) 805-5703.