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Will I go to jail if convicted of DUI in Tennessee?

Here in Tennessee, it's very important to try to avoid convictions for driving under the influence (DUI), as this is a state that imposes mandatory jail time even for first offenders.

Because prosecutors and judges (and the public at large) view drunk and drugged driving to be such a serious problem, a first conviction on DUI charges requires a minimum two-day stay behind bars. However, defendants can potentially be sentenced to as long as 11 months and 29 days in jail.

When drivers' blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds .19 percent, upon conviction, that time is extended to one week behind bars. The sentence most be served consecutively.

There are also fines in the range of $350 to as much as $1,500, none of which include court costs, license reinstatement fees or any of the other assorted fees that can accompany an arrest and conviction on DUI charges.

While those are potentially the most serious and life-altering consequences, there are also administrative penalties that are triggered just from being arrested for DUI. Without successfully challenging a year-long default administrative suspension of your driving privileges, your lifestyle and job could bear the significant brunt of your DUI arrest.

Your attorney can attempt to negotiate for a plea bargain that will allow you to plead guilty to lesser charges. He or she may even be able to arrange for a hardship license to allow you to continue to drive for work-related purposes. However, there may be conditions imposed, such as being assessed for substance abuse problems. If a problem is substantiated, you may need to successfully complete a rehab program to address any drug or alcohol usage issues. Additionally, those convicted of DUI may also have to attend and pay for driver safety programs.

When drunken drivers are arrested with passengers age 14 or under in the car, have BAC levels of .16 or higher or do not submit to a Breathalyzer at all, those drivers have to pay to install and maintain ignition interlock devices on their vehicles once their suspended driver's licenses get reinstateed.

It should also be noted that after a driver has racked up his or her first DUI, that conviction will remain an active influence for a decade on any future charges of and sentencing for additional DUIs.

Of course, there are also may be job-related repercussions for DUI convictions, as there are elsewhere across the nation. Depending on your profession, you could lose your license to practice law, medicine or nursing. Other employers may simply terminate you after an arrest for drunken driving.

All of these harsh consequences mean that defending yourself against such allegations is vital after an arrest for DUI.

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