Sober Up On Tennessee DUI Law

Sober Up On Tennessee DUI Law

Tennessee veered off course with its drunken driving law and, thanks
to the work of a special task force, the state stands a good chance of
seeing the law improved.

State law used to require first-time DUI offenders to spend 48 hours
in jail. It was a tough-minded statute. But the legislature had the
bright idea that it would be better to cut that jail time to 24 hours and
add 24 hours of service during which offenders would have to wear an
orange vest that said, “I am a Drunk Driver” and pick up trash on the
roadway, which essentially gave DUI offenders a day of fresh air. And
whether it truly humiliated or embarrassed anybody as cars whizzed by is
open to debate.

The law, which went into effect Jan. 1 without the signature of Gov.
Phil Bredesen, created a lot of complaints, including those from sheriffs
who said they had little money to oversee cleanup crews, although
legislators later provided more funds. But Bredesen formed a task force
this year to look at DUI laws, which he said had become confusing. Panel
recommendations include repealing the so-called shaming law. The task
force, which included representatives from law enforcement and citizen
groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said many counties haven’t
been implementing the road crews. The task force recommended that the
sentence for first-time offenders go back to 48 hours, and recommended
DUI education classes.

Bredesen liked the group’s advice, but some of the proposals will
probably lead to more discussion; among them, extending the state
open-container law to passengers, which could raise all sorts of
questions.

The group also wants to let law enforcement officials revoke the
driver’s license of someone suspected of DUI who won’t submit to a breath
test, then allowing application for a restricted license. A driver who
refuses to take a breath test now may keep a license until a court
hearing. The group also calls for using technology such as the device
that requires a breath test for a car to start.

DUI laws should be constantly monitored and constantly tough. The one
sure thing is that the 48-hour jail time should be re-imposed. The state
should want to deal aggressively with drunken drivers. The vest gimmick
should be ditched.

Thursday, 9 November 2006
Source: Associated Press/AP Online

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