From Behind The Badge To On Your Side

What is a per se DUI charge in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2023 | dui

After a motor vehicle collision, it is common practice for Tennessee police officers to test the people involved for signs of alcohol impairment. If either driver fails a breath or field sobriety test after a crash, they may end up arrested even if they were not technically to blame for the collision.

Police officers may also request chemical testing during run-of-the-mill traffic stops and then arrest people because of the results. Many people get arrested and charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) offense because they fail a breath or field sobriety test during a traffic stop, not because they caused a crash or hurt anyone.

Those who fail a breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test upon arrest will face allegations that they violated the state’s per se blood alcohol limit. Understanding this law makes it easier for people to avoid unintentionally violating it.

Actual impairment isn’t necessary for a DUI charge

Someone does not have to demonstrate actual issues with managing their motor vehicle to face DUI charges in Tennessee. Demonstratively reduced driving skill is one reason that the state can pursue DUI charges.

However, someone could drive as they normally would and face charges because they failed a breath test. The phrase per se means “by itself” in Latin. In other words, a per se law makes something illegal on its own merits, not in connection with any secondary requirement, like the demonstration of impaired driving ability.

Tennessee has a per se limit for someone’s blood alcohol concentration, which means that it is illegal to drive while over that limit regardless of whether the alcohol actually affects someone’s ability to do so safely. Someone arrested after failing a breath test would not be able to defend themselves by claiming that their skill was fine even if their BAC was too high.

Often, challenging the validity of the test results or the legality of the traffic stop will be a better tactic for those who fail the breath test despite having previously demonstrated normal driving skills. Even technical DUI charges can cost someone their driver’s license and affect their job prospects for many years to come.

Responding proactively to DUI charges can help those who have been accused of breaking the law to avoid a criminal conviction or to mitigate the negative consequences associated with a conviction, if one can’t be avoided. Speaking with an experienced legal professional is almost always a good first step forward under these circumstances.