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Driving Under The Influence: What It Really Means And Who Is Responsible

Perhaps no time poses as significant of a risk to the dangers of driving under the influence as holiday weekends. At The Terry Law Firm, we have represented many people that have been hit by drunk drivers. Currently, we are seeing more and more of these accidents caused not by alcohol or illegal drugs but by legally prescribed medication.

Unlike most other laws in Tennessee, driving under the influence (DUI) does not require a culpable mental state to be found guilty. Under Tennessee law, “under the influence” is defined as the condition where a person’s physical and mental abilities are impaired by reason of the consumption of an intoxicant. The manner in which a person becomes intoxicated, assuming that the intoxication was voluntary and not involuntary, is of no consequence. Furthermore, the source of the intoxication is not limited to alcohol or illegal drugs. This ban on DUI extends even to those who have been legally entitled to use particular types of controlled substances and have voluntarily and knowingly chosen to ingest them.

Many times liability for the actions of a drunk driver can extend to an establishment or person serving the drunk driver. This liability is called “dram shop”. The law in Tennessee basically provides for liability against a bar or establishment that continues to serve someone to the point that they know or should know the patron poses a hazard to the public when they return to their car and drive home or elsewhere.

It is also important to note Tennessee’s view of the time and manner in which one can be charged with DUI. The Tennessee Supreme Court, in State v. Lawrence, reasoned that law enforcement officers should assess the accused’s “physical control” of the automobile. This means that you do not have to have the keys placed in the ignition to be charged with DUI. In the case above, the motorist was found asleep inside his truck, sitting in the driver’s seat, and had the keys to the vehicle in his pocket. The court stated that since the vehicle could be immediately placed in motion, the driver was found to be in sufficient physical control of his vehicle, and his conviction for DUI was upheld.

All of us here at The Terry Law Firm hope you have a fun and, most importantly, safe Labor Day weekend. If you find that you have been injured by a drunk driver or someone under the influence, please contact the personal injury attorneys here at The Terry Law Firm to assist you in your case.