Tennessee's DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in Tennessee.

If you're convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in Tennessee, the penalties you'll face will depend mostly on how many prior convictions you have.

This article covers the basics of Tennessee's DUI laws, including the consequences of a first, second, and third DUI conviction.

Tennessee's DUI Laws

Tennessee's DUI laws prohibit a person from driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle under either of the following conditions:

Tennessee law defines "under the influence" as being impaired to an extent that the driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is affected.

A driver who has a BAC of .08% or more can be convicted of a "per se DUI," regardless of his or her level of actual impairment. The volume of alcohol necessary to reach these BAC levels can differ depending on gender, body size, and the type of alcohol (get an estimate using our BAC calculator.)

Tennessee's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI Penalties

The penalties for DUI convictions are set by statute. Generally, the possible penalties (the penalties ranges) depend on how many prior DUIs the offender has that occurred within the past ten years. (However, in deciding how to sentence the offender within the ranges set by law, the judge can consider priors within the past 20 years.) Prior DUI offenses that occurred in Tennessee, as well as other states, are counted.

Fines and Jail Time for Tennessee DUI Offenses

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 11 months, 29 days (7-day minimum with a .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

Tennessee's Work Release Program for DUI Offenders

Judges can allow a DUI offender to serve a jail sentence on work release. Work release permits the person to continue with their employment but return to the jail after work each evening.

DUI Probation in Tennessee

Provided the offender serves the minimum jail, the judge can suspend the remainder of any jail time and order probation. DUI probation usually includes having to complete a substance abuse assessment and follow any recommendations of that assessment.

Driver's License Penalties for Tennessee DUI Offenses

A DUI arrest and/or conviction can result in license-related penalties

License Suspension for DUI Convictions in TN

For a DUI conviction, the judge will order the driver's license to be suspended for the following periods:

  • First offense. One-year driver's license suspension.
  • Second offense. Two-year driver's license suspension.
  • Third offense. Six-year driver's license suspension.

If the driver was operating a commercial vehicle at the time, his or her commercial driver's license could be revoked entirely.

DUI Restricted Licenses in TN

To alleviate some of the hardship of license loss, judges are permitted to issue a temporary restricted license during a DUI suspension. Generally, this license can be used only for travel related to work, school, or treatment purposes. The use of an ignition interlock device (IID) might also be required for a restricted license.

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. While the officer may request a blood or breath test, only a breath test is required without a warrant.

An unlawful refusal leads to a one-year suspension for a first occurrence and a two-year suspension for a second offense within ten years.

Plea Bargaining in Tennessee DUI Cases

If you get charged with a DUI in Tennessee, you might be hoping the prosecution will dismiss the case. However, unless the court throws out evidence that's critical to prove the charge, it's unlikely a prosecutor will agree to do so. But Tennessee law doesn't prohibit reducing a DUI charge to a lesser offense. So, depending on the circumstances, a reduction could be an option.

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