Tennessee’s Underage DUI Laws and Penalties

The consequences of driving under the influence for drivers who are under 21 years old.

In Tennessee, drivers who are under the age of 21 can be convicted of a standard DUI for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more or while under the influence of (impaired by) drugs or alcohol. Underage offenders who are convicted of a standard DUI generally face the same consequences as offenders who are at least 21 years old.

However, Tennessee also has an underage DUI statute that applies only to drivers who are under 21. An underage DUI conviction carries less serious penalties than a standard DUI. The offense is defined as operating a vehicle:

  • while under the influence of (impaired by) drugs or alcohol, or
  • with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%.

So, an underage motorist who’s “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol—meaning, the motorist’s ability to safety drive is impaired—can be charged with an underage DUI or a standard DUI. Basically, the prosecutor gets to choose what offense to charge the person with. But an underage motorist who’s caught driving with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08% (and isn’t impaired enough to meet the definition of “under the influence”) can be charged only with an underage DUI.

Penalties

The consequences of an underage DUI are generally less punitive than those for a standard DUI. An underage DUI is typically a misdemeanor, but if the driver was under 18 years old, the offense is considered a “delinquent act.” But whether it’s classified as a misdemeanor or delinquent act, an underage DUI carries the following consequences.

Community service. Whereas a standard DUI can lead to up to a year in jail, an underage DUI does not result in jail time. However, the judge can order the person to complete community service instead.

Fines. The judge will order anyone convicted of an underage DUI to pay a $250 fine.

License suspension. As with a standard DUI, an underage DUI results in a one-year license suspension. However, unlike with a standard DUI, a motorist convicted of an underage offense can’t obtain a restricted license during the suspension period.

Talk to an Attorney

If you were stopped for drunk driving in Tennessee, get in touch with a DUI lawyer. There’s no substitute for the advice of a knowledgeable attorney. A qualified DUI attorney can let you know what you're facing and help you decide on a plan of action.

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