Impaired Driver Bill Advances in Tennessee Senate

April 3, 2008

A proposal to lower the blood alcohol content required for a person to be guilty of extreme drunken driving is among several impaired driving bills slowly moving in the Tennessee Legislature.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

However, a House subcommittee has delayed action on the companion bill until next year.

Johnson says he plans to speak with the House sponsor to see if that status can change.

The bill would lower the threshold for an extreme driving under the influence offense from a blood alcohol content of 0.20 to 0.15, which would mean an additional five days of incarceration.

Meanwhile, two DUI bills were placed in general sub Tuesday, meaning lawmakers can bring them back up at anytime. However, in most cases the legislation has failed for the year.

One of those is a proposal by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, that would ban prosecutors from offering plea bargains in drunken driving cases.

A state attorney general’s opinion said the Tennessee Constitution prohibits the General Assembly from interfering in the discretion of district attorneys.

The legislation has been taken off notice in the House.

The other bill is sponsored by Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, and would require a DUI offender to have an ignition interlock device installed on all vehicles driven by the offender.

The companion legislation is scheduled for a House Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday.

All the bills are part of a package of legislation proposed this year to strengthen Tennessee’s DUI laws.

In 2006, there were 1,721 drivers involved in fatal accidents on Tennessee roads, according to federal statistics. Of those, 337 drivers, or 22 percent, tested for blood-alcohol contents at the legal limit of 0.08 percent or higher.

Read the full texts of SB2952, SB3040 and SB0108 on the General Assembly’s Web site at:

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