Drunk Driving

Trying to crack down on drinking and driving, lawmakers in Tennessee put a new law into place that gives tougher sentences to those who are given DUIs when they are under the age of 21.

However, the law failed to take into account the fact that the federal government already has regulations in place for this, and the law in Tennessee did not line up with the federal law. As such, the federal government is threatening the state by saying it will not give them federal road money unless they take the new law off of the books. The state could stand to lose around $60 million.

Repealing the Law

In all likelihood, Gov. Bill Haslam and the lawmakers are going to repeal the law. Technically, they're still trying to get it to stand by talking to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, attempting to convince that body that the law is not actually in violation of the zero-tolerance rules used at the federal level. They have until October 1 to get that done, before the money will be taken away.

If they can't convince the NHTSA to go along with them, though, the lawmakers will have to meet, and Haslam sounds like he'd be in favor of repealing the law to keep the money.

The Issue

The problem is that the law made it so that those who are under 21 could have a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08 before getting a DUI, which is in keeping with the state regulations for those over 21. However, the federal law says that underage drivers actually have a maximum BAC level of 0.02 percent, and if they hit that or go over, they're in violation. The law in Tennessee does give these drivers harsher penalties if they register at 0.08 or over, but leaves the door open for drivers who are too young to buy any alcohol to avoid a DUI with a BAC between 0.02 and 0.08.

State and Federal Battles

The line between state and federal power has been contested for much of American history, and this legal battle shows how this is still going on. Residents will want to keep an eye on the outcome to make sure they know what their current rights are if they've been accused of driving under the influence.

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