Motorists who have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) are now under a hot and sobering magnifying glass with a new bill proposal coming in Tennessee.
State Representative Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) is writing a bill aimed at putting an end to drunk driving. Specifically, this legislation would ban the sale of alcohol to any DUI offender.
If the bill passes into law, the standard punishment procedure for Tennessee DUI offenders would tighten. Currently, drivers convicted of their first DUI offense lose their license for a year. The recently introduced bill would mandate that these lawbreakers also receive a special red strip on their license, indicating they are banned from purchasing alcohol for one year after their driving privileges are reinstated.
Furthermore, repeat delinquents would lose much more freedom with each conviction. A second-time offender would lose their license for two years, and would not be able to buy alcohol for two years after their license is reinstated. Third-timers, in addition to facing possible jail time and a 6-year license revocation, would also receive a permanent alcohol ban as long as they hold a valid Tennessee driver’s license.
Hulsey is fighting somewhat of a personal battle, saying this specific bill “rings in my heart.” In June 2014, Hulsey’s friend Mike Locke—whom he succeeded as state representative—was struck and killed by a drunk driver while placing Hulsey’s campaign signs.
In an effort to stop the problem at its source, Rep. Hulsey also plans to write in a punishment for any bar, beer distributor, or liquor store official who sells to a person with the red-stripped driver’s license. Violators would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor—subjecting the seller to a fine and possible jail time, he proposed.
Thomas Carter, a Kingsport liquor store owner, does not want to support drinking and driving, though he said he is having trouble promoting a law that could potentially hurt his business.
“That’s a tough thing for us to want to get behind,” said Carter. “What if he’s not driving? What if he has a friend that’s brought him down here or he had a misfortune?”
Regardless of its popularity, Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) law professor Akram Faizer deems Hulsey’s plan to be completely legal.
“Tennessee has complete sovereignty as a state on how it wants to regulate alcohol in its borders,” Faizer said.
The Tennessee Safety Department has not said how much it would cost to print new labels on their state IDs; however, Hulsey has an estimate.
“It's likely going to be somewhere around $15 but that fee will be passed on to the offender,” he said. “They'll have to pay it.”
Once the bill is formally written and submitted, it will go to vote in both of Tennessee's House and Senate committees.