Tennessee DUI Laws and Penalties

The definition of “driving under the influence” and penalties for a DUI conviction in Tennessee.

Tennessee prohibits a motorist from driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater, or
  • while under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analog, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system, or combination thereof.

A driver is considered “under the influence” of a substance if it “impairs the driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of oneself that the driver would otherwise possess.”

Tennessee DWI Penalties

When a person is convicted of a DWI, the judge will decide the appropriate jail time and fines but is required to stay within certain parameters. These parameters are established by law and relate to the number of prior DUI offenses the driver has within the past ten years. (DUI offenses in Tennessee, as well as other states, count.)

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 11 months, 29 days (minimum 7 days if .20% BAC or more)

45 days to 11 months, 29 days

120 days to 11 months, 29 days

Fines

$350 to $1,500

$600 to $3,500

$1,100 to $10,000

Jail alternatives. After the minimum jail sentence is served, the judge can suspend the remaining jail term and place the driver on probation. The driver will have to complete a substance abuse assessment and follow any recommendations, which may include an ankle bracelet to monitor sobriety. This assessment is mandatory for second and third offenses and requires rehabilitation services if probation is granted. The court can also permit work-release (meaning the person can go to work during the day) during the jail sentence.

Forfeiture. The judge is also permitted to order the forfeiture of the vehicle used in the commission of the DUI. If so ordered, the vehicle will be seized and sold for the benefit of the state.

Driver’s License Sanctions

For a first, second, or third-offense DUI conviction, the court will order the driver’s license be suspended for one, two, and six years, respectively.

Restricted license. The court is permitted to issue a temporary restricted license during the suspension period. This license may only be used for travel related to work, school, or treatment purposes. And the use of an ignition interlock device (IID) is often required.

Implied Consent and Refusing a Chemical or Breath Test in Tennessee

Tennessee’s “implied consent” laws require all drivers lawfully arrested for a DUI to submit to a breath test. If found to have refused a lawfully-requested test, the court will suspend the driver’s license. The driver’s license will be suspended for one year for a first occurrence and two years for a second offense (within a ten-year period). The driver may be eligible for a restricted license but must install an IID.

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