A recent amendment to a current Tennessee law will hurt offenders a little more in the wallet if they are convicted of driving without wearing a seatbelt in Tennessee.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-9-603(a)(2) specifies the fines for driving without wearing a seatbelt in Tennessee. Since the law’s inception through 2015, a violation of this statute has been a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a $10.00 fine for the first violation, and a $20.00 fine for a subsequent violation. Payment of the fine for a violation of this law is paid to the clerk of the county where the violation occurred. No violation of the seatbelt law is reported by the Tennessee Department of Safety except for law enforcement/governmental (statistical) purposes.
However, an amendment to this law that takes effect January 1, 2016. This raises the first violation to a $25.00 fine and any subsequent violation to a $50.00 fine. While this may not be a lot of money to some, this is none the less a substantial increase in the fine. Accordingly, drivers on Tennessee roads need to abide by the seatbelt law to avoid being penalized.
In this author’s opinion, though, it is not just the monetary penalty with which drivers should be concerned. It is imperative to wear a seatbelt for safety reasons. According to law enforcement statistics, 300 people in Tennessee died in 2015 alone because they were not wearing seatbelts.
Furthermore, failure to wear a seatbelt is a common reason for a law enforcement officer to conduct a traffic stop. A simple traffic stop, as observed over 35 years of DUI defense experience, is often the first step to a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) investigation. The Officer need only allege an odor of alcohol, slurred speech or some other subjective indication to legally detain a suspect for further investigation – often Field Sobriety Testing (FSTs). More often than not, that then leads to a DUI arrest. Being arrested for a DUI is serious, but loss of life is tragic. Please be certain that you and your passengers are properly restrained when driving or riding in a motorized vehicle.
About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants. Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee. Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.
He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 7th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen). Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions. He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.