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Tennessee bill would ban sale of alcohol to, alter driver's license of DUI offenders

A Tennessee state representative hopes to prevent drunk driving by banning offenders from being able to purchase alcohol. (Rkolarsky/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - A Tennessee state representative hopes to prevent drunk driving by banning offenders from being able to purchase alcohol.

A bill being drafted by Kingsport Republican Rep. Bud Hulsey would impose the ban on offenders based on offense.

FOX 17 News spoke with Hulsey on Thursday for insight on how the law would work if passed.

Hulsey says a first-time DUI offender who is found guilty would lose their license for a year, a punishment which is already law. But under Hulsey's bill, once that offender goes to apply for a new license, the license would have a red stripe indicating the holder is not allowed to purchase alcohol for one year from the date the license is issued.

The bill would not stop there. A second-time DUI offender would lose their license for two years and once they receive a new license, it would have a red stripe indicating they can't buy alcohol for two years after it's issued.

If an offender commits a third DUI offense, the driver would then have the red stripe banning them from purchasing alcohol for the rest of their driving career.

Under the bill, any vendor who sells alcohol to a person with a red stripe on their license would be faced with a Class C misdemeanor, making the seller subject to up to five months 29 days in jail and a fine.

Hulsey, a former Kingsport Police officer for 36 years, told FOX 17 News something has to be done.

"We've gotta do something that has some effect," Hulsey said. "People who lose people in DUI crashes never get over it. People who are maimed never get over it."

Hulsey also addressed some concerns about those calling it a prohibition bill.

"Some people are claiming this is a prohibition bill. It's not about the sale of alcohol, this is about selling to an offender."

The notion of it being a prohibition bill is also negated considering an offender could find ways to get alcohol.

"The offender isn't banned from drinking," said Hulsey, "that's why it's not a prohibition bill. If a family member or someone wants to give them alcohol, they can still drink it. It's a loophole in the bill that can't be plugged up. It's not illegal for the offender to drink."

Hulsey does add that existing DUI by consent laws would still impact those who provide alcohol to a person who commits an offense.

Hulsey says legal counsel currently has the bill and he already has other representatives interested in co-sponsoring.

He is also waiting on a hard number from the Safety Department on what the cost would be to the state for placing the red line and language on an offender's license.

"It's likely going to be somewhere around $15 but that fee will be passed on to the offender. They'll have to pay it."

If the bill is successful and passes, Hulsey says he is already thinking of what could be done to prevent people from driving while under the influence of prescription drugs.

"I gotta find a way to deal with that," Hulsey told FOX 17 News. "There are more people driving impaired now than those driving drunk. I'm asking my constituents and others for their feedback on how we can stop that problem as well."

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