What should be the goals of Tennessee’s drunk driving laws? Punishment? Toughness? Rehabilitation? DUI laws are a political football in Tennessee. The Tennessee Legislature creates some new DUI law every term from mandatory ignition interlock to increased punishment. But what are the goals? Should our government encourage people charged with a crime to get help? Here is a thought from someone who has been defending DUI cases and helping people deal with a DUI charge since 1994.
First, treatment should be encouraged and rewarded. Now, I do understand that some people will go to treatment just to try to make their case look better. However, a great number of those charged with DUI get the wake up call of their lives and recognize their alcohol issues once they are arrested. Under current Tennessee law, only those charged with a DUI second offense can get credit from a judge for participating in a alcohol or drug treatment program. One other catch is that the treatment has to be post judgment or after someone pleads guilty. When does a person need treatment most? As soon as they recognize and admit they have a problem. Why do they only get credit after a judgment is entered?
Tennessee’s DUI law should be changed to give everyone jail credit for inpatient alcohol and or drug treatment regardless of the offense charged. Charged with a first offense DUI all the way to a felony DUI one should be given jail credit for treatment. Secondly, a defendant should be given credit whenever they complete the treatment after an arrest. Why should a person have to wait to do treatment until their DUI case is concluded? It does not make sense to this simple lawyer.
It goes back to what is the goal of a law? There are many definitions of what a law is simply by reading the dictionary. A law is simply a rule to establish social order. Why only reward DUI second offenders? Are second offenders special? People that seek and complete treatment should be given consideration regardless of the offense and when they seek treatment.
Society is better served if a government helps its citizens.