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How can you get a DUI if you're not even drunk?

Tennessee's Highway Patrol routinely cracks down on drunk driving around the holidays. Usually, this means that officers field sobriety checkpoints and pay extra attention to suspicious driving. But this extra attention can sometimes lead officers to make DUI arrests against people who aren't even drunk.

How is this possible? There are several factors at play because Tennessee's definition of DUI isn't based solely on your BAC. Instead, you can be charged with a DUI if your BAC is .08 percent or higher or if you use a vehicle while "under the influence" of alcohol or other drugs.

Three reasons an officer may believe you are "under the influence"

If an officer suspects you of driving drunk when he or she pulls you over, you may very well find yourself arrested for a DUI. This is because the standards for the arrest are largely subjective. The officer will ask you questions, ask you to perform a field sobriety test and serve as the first judge of your performance.

Notably, the fact the officer has pulled you over already counts against you. As a result, the officer is likely less inclined to send you on your way than to look for any supporting evidence, such as:

  • Failed field sobriety tests. Even if your BAC tests below the legal limit, the Highway Patrol or police might arrest you if you fail their field sobriety tests. These tests do not consider environmental factors or the varied levels of personal ability. It's entirely possible for some sober people to fail these tests even while some drunk people may pass them.
  • Residual marijuana. Marijuana is not generally legal in Tennessee, so any trace of the drug within your system may be grounds for DUI charges. However, the drug can stay in your system well after its effects have faded. Medical News Today writes that traces of THC can remain in your system for days or weeks, which means the authorities could detect it even well after you return from a trip to someplace where the drug is legal.
  • Underage drinking. College students and other people under 21 face stiffer standards for DUI than people 21 and older. This is because they're not legally supposed to drink. Accordingly, they could face underage DUI charges for driving with a BAC between .02 percent and .08 percent. While many states allow parents to serve alcohol to their children within their homes, Tennessee does not.

Don't accept DUI charges you don't deserve

Tennessee law enforcement agencies claim they don't have quotas for DUI arrests, but officers have long reported otherwise. For whatever reasons the officers may have felt pressured to make DUI arrests, those pressures can increase over the Labor Day weekend and other holidays. And that can result in bad arrests.

If you find yourself facing DUI charges over the holiday, you don't have to take them lying down. Sober people shouldn't face DUI charges, and a skilled attorney can help you challenge the evidence, clear your name and avoid the long-term consequences of a wrongful conviction.

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