A DUI defense attorney says stricter DUI laws and stepped up enforcement has contributed to more people facing multiple DUIs in Tennessee.
Just this month alone, several people have been arrested for multiple offenses, including a Murfreesboro man who had four previous convictions before his latest arrest on Sunday.
“These people are not licensed drivers,” attorney Lisa Eischeid said. “The state has not given their drivers license back so they are driving illegally.”
She said along with driving on the restricted, suspended or revoked licenses the offenders continue to drink or take the drugs that lead to their DUI arrest.
In Tennessee, if someone is convicted for DUI within 10 years of another conviction they are considered a multiple offender.
Eischeid became the victim of a multiple DUI offender in June when Brandi Henricks drove a car into Eischeid's downtown Murfreesboro law office.
The car destroyed a portion of the front wall. A month, later plywood is still used to keep the building secure so Eischeid can conduct business.
Henricks was arrested and charged for her third DUI offense.
“She was prohibited from driving a motor vehicle,” Eischeid said. “She had obtained the vehicle maybe through a friend.”
Tennessee law allows for varying jail sentences, fines and driving restrictions depending on the DUI offense.
For example someone charged with their first DUI faces $350 to $1,500 in fines, the loss of their license for one year and depending on blood alcohol content can be required to install an ignition interlock device.
The device requires the driver to blow into it to determine if they have consumed alcohol prior to allowing the car to start.
According to Eischeid the answer to prevent people from receiving multiple offenses could be to enforce better programs to help beat substance abuse.
A fourth offense DUI is a Class E felony with fines of $3,000 to $15,000 in fines, a minimum of 150 days in jail and the loss of their license for 8 years.
Also more law enforcement agencies are focusing on DUI enforcement. Agencies are holding sobriety checkpoints and executing DUI suppression plans.
“DUI enforcement is one of the most important duties of our agency,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said earlier this year. “We have a responsibility to keep the roadways safe.”
However, some offenders still drive whether it's out of necessity to get to work in order to pay the fines and penalties, or because they do not care about defying the court.
“You see a lot of them falling into driving on a revoked license and getting picked up,” Eischeid said. “Once these people get third, fourth, or fifth conviction it is a social problem.”
Tennessee State Representative Debra Maggart has sponsored legislation to strengthen DUI laws within the state.
“We demonstrated that we are serious about drunk driving. We wanted to put stricter laws in place and we did that,” she said. “Hopefully, as time goes by we will see these measures we have enacted will help curb DUIs.”
Maggart also said a challenge for lawmakers is finding a way to not only punish the crime, but prevent it in the first place.
“We are going to have to look at these problems of addiction because,” she said. “In Tennessee we don't just have a problem with people addicted to alcohol we have so many people addicted to drugs in our state.”
Eischeid is still making plans to repair the damage to her office. She will have to replace her entire front wall.
She said after posting bail, Henricks returned to her office and apologized.