SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- A proposed Tennessee bill would create a TBI registry for repeat DUI offenders. The bill as it stands now calls for the pictures and other identifying data of DUI offenders be posted publicly on the TBI website. The offender list would not include social security numbers, driver license numbers, or state or federal identification numbers.
The DUI offender registry bill passed in the state senate last week on first consideration. It will now be deliberated by a House subcommittee. Sponsors include Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) and Representative Glen Casada (R-Franklin).
Speaking with News Channel 11 over the phone, Rep. Casada said the Department of Safety officials he spoke to were in favor of creating the list. Casada said he had not yet discussed the potential registry with the TBI.
Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Blake Watson said if the bill passed, the online registry could be enormous.
“This list could grow astronomically, potentially,” he said.
Watson said the Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested more than 7,000 individuals for DUI in 2017 alone, and the number of offenders could make the registry difficult to maintain.
“You’ve got a large, large number of individuals. The other complicated factor, unfortunately, is recidivists, so you’re just going to be going back and adding these same people,” said Watson.
The bill calls for offender’s names to be on the list for two years after a second DUI offense. After a third offense, a name would be on the list for five years.
Watson said the list wouldn’t be useful to him from a prosecution standpoint because he already obtains offender recidivist statuses from the Department of Safety.
Sullivan County Public Defender Andrew Gibbons also questioned the list’s purpose.
“Is there a legitimate interest to have this list out there beyond just embarrassing the people involved? Beyond just adding additional punishment on the defendants, I don’t see any purpose in this,” said Gibbons.
The TBI already maintains public lists for crimes like animal abuse and sex offenders.
“The public would have an interest in knowing who’s living in their neighborhood or apartment building or something like that,” said Gibbons.
“The DUI registry, I don’t know that it would necessarily help to protect our roadways any better than we already do with the Motor Vehicle Registry with the Tennessee Department of Safety,” said Watson.