What Is “Bentley’s Law,” the New Drunk Driving Bill in TN?

What Is “Bentley’s Law,” the New Drunk Driving Bill in TN? A new bill is about to be passed in Tennessee that would further deter drivers from drinking before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. Under House Bill 1834, known as Bentley’s Law, “if a parent of a minor child dies at the hands of a drunk driver, the convicted drunk driver is then responsible for child support.”

This bill was inspired by a woman whose grandson, Bentley, lost both of his parents due to being in an accident with a drunk driver. If the bill passes into law, a convicted drunk driver would have to pay child support until the victims’ children are 18 and graduate from high school. Per the bill, “If the person convicted is in jail, those payments will start one year after they’re released.”

The Bill passed unanimously in Tennessee’s House and senate, and now awaits Governor Lee’s signature.

How common is drunk driving in Tennessee?

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, there were 5,918 Driving Under Intoxication reports (DUIs) in 2020, and that number increased to 6,04 in 2021. While the numbers for DUI arrests and convictions have always been high, the pandemic saw a dramatic increase in DUI-related deaths across the country, too. According to MADD (Mothers against Drunk Driving), there was a 9% increase in drunk driving fatalities in the U.S. in 2020 alone.

What are the penalties for a DUI in Franklin, TN?

The DUI laws in Tennessee are not meant to simply punish anyone who breaks them, but to also prevent future acts of drunk driving by first-time and repeat offenders. Because of this, the penalties are severe, even for first-time offenders. These penalties include:

  • DUI first offense: Your first DUI conviction in Tennessee can result in anywhere between 48 hours and 11 months, 29 days behind bars, and/or a fine between $350 and $1,500. You face a one-year license revocation, plus additional costs for the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) if so mandated.
  • DUI second offense: For a second DUI conviction, your jail time rises dramatically—from 45 days (at a minimum) up to 11 months, 29 days. The fines double ($600 to $3,500) as does the license revocation, which can last two years. Your vehicle is also subject to seizure/ forfeiture, meaning the cops can take your car. You will be required to install an IID, as well.
  • DUI third offense: Now, the minimum jail time escalates to 120 days (though you may be ordered to serve up to 11 months, 29 days), the fine can range anywhere from $1,100 to $10,000, and you lose your license for 6years. You also face vehicle seizure/ forfeiture.
  • Fourth and subsequent DUI offense: With your fourth or subsequent conviction, you face Class E felony charges: automatic one year in jail, fines between $3,000 and $15,000, license revocation for 8 years, and mandated installation of an IID. Again, you are also subject to vehicle seizure/forfeiture.

And this is only if you are convicted of a DUI where no one is harmed. A drunk driving accident that causes the death of another person is vehicular manslaughter – a Class B felony with prison time from 8-30 years, and/or fines of up to $25,000.

What are the long term consequences of a drunk driving conviction?

While these penalties are reason enough to avoid drinking and driving, there are also the long term ramifications to consider when you are thinking of getting behind the wheel of a car while inebriated. If you are convicted of a DUI, that will go on your criminal record. If you are a prospective student of a university or school, this may negatively impact your chances of being accepted as they are more likely to accept someone with a clean record over someone with a DUI on their record.

The same thing applies to jobs. If you need a new job in the future, and you have that DUI on your criminal record, the employer may choose not to hire you. Not only does it affect your future prospects of a career but your current job might also be in danger as you have to make time in your schedule for any court dates or community service work you are ordered to do. If you have to go to jail, then you may very well not have a job once you serve your time.

If your license is revoked, this may hamper your ability to get to work (or work at all, if you’re a truck driver or work for a delivery service) or pick your children up from day-care. Simple things like running errands – going to the bank or grocery store – can become all day events and be a source of stress. With public transport becoming less available you may find it difficult trying to get to places, not to mention the money wasted if you have to use a rideshare multiple times a day.

We understand that people make mistakes. It is our human condition to be fallible. When that happens, however, it is important that you seek out a Franklin DUI lawyer. We are strong advocates for our clients, and we will make sure that you are treated fairly. We have experienced attorneys to make sure you don’t keep paying for a mistake for the rest of your life. Please feel free to call our offices today at 615-977-9370 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer. We serve clients in the Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood areas.

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