What Is The Difference Between A Federal DUI and A State DUI?

The main difference between federal and state DUI charges is the land someone was driving on at the time. If a person was driving on state land, they will face state DUI charges, while anyone driving under the influence on federal land will face federal DUI charges. Federal DUI charges are much more serious and the procedure is quite different.

What Is A Federal DUI?

The federal crime of driving under the influence is not very different from Tennessee’s state DUI laws. The federal DUI law states that drivers are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle when they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. Driving under the influence of prescription or illegal drugs is also against federal law. The only difference between federal DUI charges and state charges is the presence of federal land. Like in Tennessee, a first-time federal offense of a DUI is considered a misdemeanor.

Just as with state law, drivers may face other penalties when they refuse to take a chemical test, such as a blood, urine, or breath test. Most states have implied consent laws, which state that all drivers provide implied consent to submit to these tests any time they are behind the wheel. Refusing to take these tests usually results in a driver’s license suspension and you may face additional penalties, as well.

DUI On Federal Lands

If you are charged with a federal DUI for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs on federal land, your case will be heard in federal criminal court. To defend against these charges, you will need clear and convincing evidence, and you may need stronger evidence than you would in state court. If you are convicted of a federal DUI, you will face harsher consequences than you would after a conviction in state court. The fine you will have to pay associated with your conviction is also higher than it is in state court.

The vast majority of DUI charges are state charges. Individual states typically have more jurisdiction over traffic and moving offenses than the federal government. While most federal DUIs involve a driver that was on federal land, if the crime involved other federal property, a person may also face federal DUI charges. Not knowing which type of land a person was driving on is not a defense to either state or federal DUI charges.

Property Damage and Federal DUI Charges

Federal lands are afforded many protections because the property that is on federal land is very valuable. Underground chemicals, confidential files, and property pertaining to a contract with a business are just some types of valuable property on federal land. When this property becomes damaged, it could hurt the federal government. It is for this reason that federal lands are usually protected by a fence or other barrier. Any time a person drives while under the influence on federal land, there is a potential that the valuable property could become damaged, which is one reason penalties for a federal DUI are usually harsher.

There are a number of different types of property that are considered federal throughout Tennessee, and the rest of the country. Forts, army bases, parking lots, national and historical monuments, courthouses, and more are all often considered federal property. When a person is on military property, they may face additional military DUI charges in addition to federal charges, which also bring additional penalties. 

If the federal land involved in a DUI was a national park, or another similar type of land, the Code of Federal Regulations will govern the case. However, if the federal land was a different type of property, the federal Assimilative Crimes Act will apply.

A Strong Defense Is Crucial

Regardless of the type of charges you are facing, it is always important to work with a DUI lawyer. When facing federal charges, it is also critical to work with a lawyer that has experience fighting them. The federal criminal justice system is vastly different from the state system and if you do not beat your charges, the consequences you will face are going to be much more serious.

Call Our Tennessee Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

If you or someone you love has been charged with a DUI, our Knoxville criminal defense lawyers at The Barnes Law Firm can assist with your case. Call us today at 865-805-5703 or fill out our online form to schedule a free criminal defense consultation and to learn more about your options.