Many of our clients are unaware that there is a separate criminal offenses in Tennessee when one is in possession of a handgun while under the influence. T.C.A. § 39-17-1321(a). This means that one may be charged with and convicted of both DUI and Possession of a Handgun While Under the Influence of an Intoxicant. Notwithstanding whether a person has been issued a handgun permit or is otherwise permitted to carry a handgun, it is an offense in Tennessee for that person to possess a handgun while under the influence of alcohol, any controlled substance or controlled substance analogue.
Interestingly, the statutory language seems to indicate that while possession of a handgun is prohibited, no such prohibition exists for other firearms. A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor, the same as a first offense DUI. A Class A misdemeanor has, among other penalties, a jail sentence of up to 11 months, 29 days and up to a $2,500 fine.
Moreover, some otherwise available defenses such as possessing or carrying the weapon at the defendant’s place of residence, place of business, or premises may not be properly asserted as a defense to a prosecution for possession of a handgun while under the influence. Again, this emphasizes the importance of hiring a knowledgeable, experienced criminal defense lawyer to assist in these types of cases.
About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants. Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD). Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve has served as Dean of the NCDD and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee.
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, 9th 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 seven foreign countries. After being named a Fulbright Scholar, Steve was honored to teach as a Visiting Professor at the University of Latvia Law School in the capital city of Riga, Latvia during the Spring Semester of 2019. During the Spring Semester of 2023, Steve taught as a Visiting Professor at Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary. If you would like to contact the author, please visit his website at www.tndui.com.