Tennessee Considering Repeal of Shame Law for DUI

Those convicted of Tennessee DUI are required by law to wear bright orange vests that state, ‘I am a drunk driver’ while picking up trash along highways. Now a task force has recommended the repeal of the ‘shame’ law.

A task force on DUI laws appointed by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen feels this portion of a law that went into effect last January is counterproductive and it does not keep someone from drinking and driving. Tom Kimball, a traffic safety resource prosecutor with the District Attorney General’s Conference says, “It might just cause more bitterness, which is common with alcohol issues.”

The task force, which includes members of law enforcement, district attorneys, courts and citizen organizations, recommended significant changes to the state DUI laws, including reinstating 48-hour jail sentences for first offenders. The law reduced the sentence to 24 hours of jail time and 24 hours of roadside work detail.

In all 25 changes were presented to the Governor. They must now be considered by the Tennessee General Assembly. The changes cover a range of DUI related issues, such as requiring first time DUI offenders to take DUI education classes; revocation of a driver’s license for those who refuse to take a breath test; prohibiting passengers from having an open container of alcohol; lowering the BAC threshold for mandatory 30 day jail sentence; and installation of ignition interlock devices when offenders record a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher.

Governor Bredesen said the panel did a “very good job” with the recommendations but acknowledged the prospect of getting some of them passed to be “politically problematic.” The governor has given the report to his legislative team to prepare for the next General Assembly session.

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