Sometimes vacations can go wrong. You might end up pulled over on the side of the road for driving under the influence (DUI). When this happens, it’s best to have someone on your side who knows how to handle not only laws of the state you’re vacationing in, but also the laws of the federal government as well.
Tennessee is a beautiful place; it’s no wonder that people travel from all over to visit our beautiful mountains and gorgeous national parks. However, tourists should be aware that when they are visiting national parks and driving around the scenic byways, they are on government land, and if you are pulled over on government property, you can be subject to federal laws and penalties. A federal DUI charge is different from a state DUI, and can have longer-lasting consequences. Whether you are charged with a state DUI or a federal DUI, you will need the help of a Sevierville lawyer who handles both types of charges.
What is the difference between a federal DUI and a state DUI?
State DUI charges can happen almost anywhere in Tennessee. It can be on the highway or a street in downtown Sevierville. You do not need to have a blood alcohol content level of over 0.08% to be charged with a DUI; there must only be evidence that you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug. The penalties for a state DUI are treated much differently than a federal charge.
For a federal DUI charge, the same rules apply, with two differences: you were pulled over on Federal property or lands, and you will be subject to Federal penalties. Federal lands include National Parks and their roads, post offices, airports, national monuments, and other such property. Sevier County includes much of the most-visited portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which contains about a half a million acres of government-owned property. If you are pulled over while driving under the influence on government-owned roads, then the penalties for a DUI charge will be much greater than a state violation.
What are the penalties for DUI on state roads?
While penalties are determined whether you were driving on a state road or federal property, another factor in determining how you will be charged is if you have been charged prior to this incident.
Penalties for first-, second-, and third-time DUI offenders in the state of Tennessee on state roads and roads owned by the government that are not located on a federal park (as per the Department of Safety and Homeland Security) include such penalties as:
- Increasing jail time per offense: First-time offenders can spend anywhere between a minimum of 48 hours to a maximum of 11 months in jail, with third-time offenders requiring a minimum of at least 120 days in jail.
- Increasing fines: First-time offenders have to pay a minimum of $350 to a maximum of $1,500, while third-time offenders may have to end up paying a maximum of $10,000.
- License revocation: Starting at one year for first-time offenders and spanning up to six years for third-time offenders.
- Ignition interlock device installation
- Required alcohol and drug treatment programs
- Subject to vehicle seizure/forfeiture: For second- and third-time offenders.
It should be noted that under Tennessee law, you have the right to a trial by a jury. This differs from federal DUI cases.
What are the penalties for being charged with a DUI in a federal park?
National Parks Service land has different laws than the rest of the state, and the NPS are bound to the Code of Federal Regulations as their laws.
Being charged with a DUI while in a federal park is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, and the penalty is spending up to six months in a federal prison, as well as being fined up to $5,000. If you have any enhancements to add to that charge (such as having a child in your car at the time of your DUI, or testing well over the legal BAC limit), that can worsen your penalties.
It’s important to point out that you can legally refuse to take any chemical tests, such as a breathalyzer test or blood tests outside your own state, for a state DUI charge, though you may lose your license. However, with federal DUI charges, it is mandatory for you to take a chemical test. If you refuse, you can lose your license.
The consequences of a federal DUI charge
While federal and state DUI charges are similar, federal charges can have different, permanent effects on your life. If you are convicted:
- The DUI charge stays on your permanent, federal record forever. Only a pardon from the President of the United States can have it expunged.
- You will likely be turned down for any jobs requiring security clearances at local, state, and federal levels. Keep in mind that private sector contractors can often work with the government, meaning that you likely will not be able to find a job in that industry either.
- It is required that you are represented by an attorney who can practice in federal court, as our attorneys
- If your federal DUI involved allegations of drug use, you could face federal drug charges in addition to the DUI/DWI.
Why is having a Sevierville DUI defense lawyer important?
It is important not only to have a local DUI defense attorney representing you due to their knowledge and expertise of the state’s laws, but it is necessary for this lawyer to handle both state and federal cases.
Earlier, we discussed that you can refuse chemical tests outside of your home state. This is due to each state’s Implied Consent laws. If this is your first time being pulled over for a DUI out of state, and you do not take the breathalyzer test or any chemical tests, then your attorney can assert the defense that there is no solid evidence that you were driving while intoxicated.
Having a DUI defense lawyer on your side is important should you be charged with DUI while visiting Tennessee. Laws vary from state to state and having someone who knows those laws expertly is critical to your defense. We at Delius & McKenzie in Sevierville are well-educated and experienced in Tennessee laws and in strong criminal defense. Not only that, we also handle both local and federal charges. If you have been charged with a DUI in a federal park, then we know exactly what to do to protect your rights. To set up an appointment, call us or fill out our contact form. Our firm has served clients in and around Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge for over two decades.
Attorney Bryan E. Delius was born and raised in Sevier County, TN. He founded Delius & McKenzie more than 20 years ago, after receiving his JD from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is admitted in Tennessee and in several federal court systems. Learn more about Bryan E. Delius.