TN bill would trade jail time for treatment for DUI offenders - WSMV Channel 4

TN bill would trade jail time for treatment for DUI offenders

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Tennessee lawmakers are considering whether jail time is the best way to stop drunk drivers. A new proposal from the governor would actually allow repeat offenders to undergo treatment in exchange for fewer days served.

The punishment for almost 600 DUI crashes last year in Tennessee was a revoked license and jail time. But a bill proposed Tuesday by Gov. Bill Haslam may change that.

"Trying to prevent second offenders from becoming third offenders and on down the line. What they are trying to do is offer treatment as a way to prevent that kind of recidivism," said Michael Rabkin, with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The tradeoff would be a day in sentence reduction for a day spent in a residential treatment program. Repeat offenders would still serve a minimum jail sentence.

"Second offender will have to serve 15 days of upfront jail time. Third offender, at least 60 days," Rabkin said.

But for one dad who lost a son in a crash involving a drunk driver, it's not enough.

"It's a speeding bullet heading down. I mean, it's this massive metal going 65, 70, 80 mph. Just because they haven't killed anyone yet doesn't minimize or reduce the fact that it's a violent crime," said Brad Bulla, a national board member for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In 2013, some 212 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes on Tennessee roads.

Bulla said while he still wants a full sentence with treatment tagged on, M.A.D.D. will not oppose the bill.

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