In 2013, Amanda Engle of Erwin, Tennessee, was charged and subsequently convicted under Tennessee’s “DUI by consent” law. In Tennessee, a vehicle’s owner or driver – or even a passenger – can be charged with DUI if he or she knowingly allows another intoxicated person to drive the vehicle.
In other words, Tennessee can charge you with DUI even if you aren’t driving. While handing over your keys is typically the right thing to do if you’re too drunk to drive, in Tennessee you can be charged and sentenced just as if you were driving.
The Tennessee Supreme Court last upheld the law in 1962. In that case, a defendant claimed he was too drunk to realize that he was giving his keys to an intoxicated friend who then killed a child. The court determined that the defendant was criminally negligent. Critics ask: how is an intoxicated person able to know if the other person taking the keys is too drunk to drive? If police officers have to use an array of tests – blood tests, breath tests, and field sobriety tests – to determine if a driver is over the limit, how can the average person make that determination accurately?
In Tennessee, if the actual driver of the vehicle is convicted of the DUI charge, a conviction for the person who gave up the keys is almost inevitable. Thankfully, California doesn’t have DUI by consent. Nevertheless, if you are charged with DUI in California, you’ll need help from an experienced DUI defense attorney. A DUI conviction in this state can mean fines, loss of driving privileges, and in some cases, jail time. A good DUI defense lawyer will work to have your charge reduced or dismissed or – should your case go to trial – to win an acquittal. If you or a family member is charged with DUI, now or in the future, speak immediately with an experienced DUI defense attorney.