Thursday, June 20, 2024

DUI News Blog

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How a Tennessee First Offense DUI Becomes a Felony

Tenn. 2024 PC 987

According to a new law, 2024 Tennessee Public Chapter 987, any person who commits a first (or subsequent) offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) after having been convicted of five other qualifying misdemeanors during the last 10 years would be deemed a “recidivist misdemeanant” and face a penalty of one to six years in the penitentiary as a Class E felon.

This law, which is so new as of the date of this blog post, it has not yet been assigned a specific code section number.  It will, however be added to Title 40, Chapter 35, Part 1.  This new law becomes effective July 1, 2024.

The misdemeanors that could be used to qualify one as a felon total 34 in number and include crimes such as misdemeanor theft (such as shoplifting), simple assault, public indecency, simple possession of a controlled substance other than marijuana, and unlawful possession of a firearm.  Accordingly, if one were to be convicted of one or more of these, or any of the other 29 qualifying misdemeanors, totaling five convictions during the last 10 years, a new first offense charge of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) would become a potential felony.

This new law underscores the need to contest any criminal offense brought against you. Frequently, police officers “overcharge” a defendant with multiple offenses, hoping the descendants will please guilty to at least one of them if the other open “overcharged” offenses are dismissed. Should these offenses not be contested, they may end up being one of the 34 qualifying misdemeanors. Although five prior misdemeanors may sound like a lot over 10 years, it could just take one or two instances of overcharging that create this felony dilemma.

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 eight foreign countries.  After being named a Fulbright Scholar, Steve was honored to teach as a Visiting Professor at the University of Latvia Faculty of Law (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. In the Spring Semester of 2024, Steve was designated a Fulbright Scholar for a second time and taught American Criminal Law and American Trial Advocacy at The University of Ljubljana Faculty of Law in the capital city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. If you would like to contact the author, please visit his website at

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Steve Oberman

Steve Oberman

Since graduating from the University of Tennessee Law School in 1980, Mr. Oberman has become established as a national authority on the intricacies of DUI defense law. Steve is a former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, co-author of a national treatise ("Drunk Driving Defense" published by Aspen/Wolters-Kluwer), and author of "DUI: The Crime and Consequences in Tennessee" (published by Thomson-Reuters/West). He has taught thousands of lawyers, judges, and members of the general public about the intricacies of this crime. Steve was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach American Criminal Law and American Trial Advocacy at the University of Latvia School of Law in 2019; in 2023 taught for a semester as a visiting professor at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary; and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Law in 2024. Steve has also presented at a number of judicial conferences in the United States and Canada as well as for law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Czech Republic Police Academy. As a Tennessee DUI attorney, Mr. Oberman has successfully defended over two thousand clients charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In 2006, Mr. Oberman became the first DUI lawyer in Tennessee to be recognized by the National College for DUI Defense as a Board Certified Specialist in the area of DUI Defense law.

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