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
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:
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
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
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
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
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.