Tennessee utilizes similar laws found in other states to prohibit the act of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Drivers who are found guilty of this offense face severe legal consequences ranging from time spent in jail to expensive civil fines.
Avoiding a DUI in Tennessee requires motorists to know the legal blood alcohol content levels. They also need to be aware of what the legal penalties are for being found guilty of driving under the influence in Tennessee.
DUI Penalties in Tennessee
Tennessee uses the same per se blood alcohol content or BAC limit as other states. The legal limit for BAC in Tennessee is under 0.08 percent. Drivers who are found at or above this level can be arrested for DUI.
This law only pertains, however, to motorists who are 21 years of age and older and hold Class A drivers’ licenses. It does not apply to drivers of commercial vehicles or CDL license holders. This category of driver is held to a lower BAC limit of under 0.04 percent.
Underage drivers in Tennessee are also held to a lower BAC level. They cannot drive with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher if they want to avoid being arrested for DUI.
While the standard definition of DUI in Tennessee applies to driving under the influence of alcohol, it is also legally defined as driving after consuming substances like:
- Inhaled intoxicants
- Controlled substances
- Over-the-counter or prescription medications
It is illegal to drive after using any of these substances to the point that they render a driver incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely.
DUI Penalties in Tennessee
The penalties for DUI in Tennessee reflect the number of prior DUI offenses that a driver has on his or her record. They also depend on the offender’s BAC at the time of his or her arrest.
A first DUI conviction in Tennessee results in a jail term of 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days. The offender must serve at least seven days in jail if his or her BAC was at or above 0.20 percent. Additionally, the driver also must pay a fine of $350 to $1100.
A second DUI offense in the state garners 45 days to 11 months and 29 days in jail. The fine for a second offense increases to $650 to $3500.
A third DUI conviction in Tennessee leads to a jail term of 120 days to 11 months and 29 days. The fine goes up to $1100 to $10,000.
At the judge’s discretion, a DUI offender can be sentenced to work release instead of jail time. Work release allows the offender to keep his or her job but then report back to the jail facility at the end of the evening.
Judges can also sentence offenders to probation instead of jail time. However, an offender on probation also has to enroll in and complete a drug or alcohol abuse program before the closing of his or her case. Finally, the judge has the option of ordering all of an offender’s vehicles to be immobilized during the time that he or she is on probation or in treatment.
Drivers cannot avoid getting a DUI by simply refusing to comply with chemical testing when they are arrested. Under the state’s implied consent laws, motorists must comply with chemical testing after their DUI arrests. If they refuse, they can lose their license for up to one year for a first-time refusal and up to two years for a second refusal if the first occurred within 10 years of the first.
DUI Drivers’ license Suspensions in Tennessee
Tennessee also typically suspends the license of offenders who are found guilty of DUI. The time frame for a suspension depends on the number of prior DUIs that a person has.
A first-time DUI conviction can result in the offender having his or her license suspended for one year. A second DUI conviction results in a license suspension of two years while a third DUI conviction leads to a suspension of six years.
CDL drivers who are found guilty of DUI in Tennessee can lose their licenses entirely. Drivers who have suspended licenses have the option of asking the court to issue a restricted license during their suspension period.
To qualify for a restricted license, offenders must agree to use an ignition interlock device or IID on their vehicles. They also must enroll in substance abuse treatment and agree to drive only to and from work, school, or a recovery program during the time that their licenses are suspended.
Tennessee strictly outlaws the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Drivers found guilty of this crime face serving time in jail and paying heavy monetary fines.
They also can lose their driving privileges for several years. Under the state’s implied consent laws, drivers must comply with chemical testing after they are arrested for DUI.