Tennessee's Drugged Driving Law

Learn about the laws and penalties for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in Tennessee.

Tennessee’s drugged driving law is located at Tennessee Code Annotated Section 55-10-401. It prohibits operating a vehicle while “Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system.”

In other words, in Tennessee it’s a crime to drive while under the influence of an intoxicant (see below). No blood testing standard is established in Tennessee – that is, there is no fixed amount of drugs within the blood system that determines conviction. Whether a driver is impaired is determined on a case-by-case basis and at the discretion of the prosecutor.

What drugs are prohibited?

Tennessee’s drugged driving law is directed at the prohibition of “any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system.” Under Tennessee law, a “drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system” includes the salts of barbituric acid, also known as malonyl urea, or any compound, derivative, or mixture thereof that may be used for producing hypnotic or somnifacient effects, and includes amphetamine, desoxyephedrine or compounds or mixtures thereof, including

all derivatives of phenolethylamine or any of the salts thereof, except preparations intended for use in the nose and unfit for internal use.” (A listing of controlled substances regulated by federal law are found at the Drug Enforcement Administration website.) It’s not an acceptable defense to a drugged driving charge to claim that the driver is legally entitled to use the controlled substance.

What happens if a driver is convicted of drug impaired driving in Tennessee?

A driver arrested for drugged driving in Tennessee will be charged with driving under the influence and subject to DUI penalties. A conviction for drugged driving will be considered as a prior offense for purposes of calculating punishment regardless of whether a subsequent offense is due to alcohol or drugs. Read more about Tennessee’s DUI laws.

Do Tennessee drivers have to submit to drug testing?

Yes, there is an implied consent rule for blood, saliva, and urine testing. The refusal to take the test can be admitted into evidence against the driver.

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