Drunk Driving Penalties In Tennessee

In Tennessee, DUI is not taken lightly. The national legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) for those over age 21 is .08 percent, and testing at those levels or higher initiates a tiered system of penalties, dependent primarily upon number of offenses. In fact, even if you are stopped on suspicion of drinking and driving and refuse to submit to a BAC test, implied consent laws state that you can be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car, and can lose your license for a year or longer, depending on whether it was your first DUI offense in Tennessee or if the crash resulted in bodily injury or death. At the Stover Law Group, we can help.

First-Time Offense

A first-time DUI conviction is a criminal charge that can result in penalties, including the following:

  • Two days to one year in jail (for a BAC of .20 or higher, the minimum jail time is seven days)
  • Loss of license for one year
  • Mandatory DUI school
  • Up to $1,500 in fines and up to $4,900 in additional costs
  • Possible mandatory drug and alcohol treatment
  • Possible mandatory ignition interlock device installed in vehicle

Second DUI Offense

The Tennessee DUI penalties increase significantly with a second offense within five years, and could include the following:

  • 45 days to one year in jail
  • Loss of license for two years, with a restricted license available after one year
  • Mandatory DUI school
  • $600 to $3,500 in fines, plus full payment of other costs and restitutions
  • Possible vehicle seizure/forfeiture
  • Possible mandatory drug and alcohol treatment
  • Possible mandatory ignition interlock device installed in vehicle

Third Offense

The penalties again increase on a third conviction:

  • Three months to one year in jail

  • Loss of license for three to 10 years without possibility to obtain restricted license
  • $1,100 to $10,000 in fines, plus full payment of other costs and restitutions
  • Possible vehicle seizure/forfeiture
  • Possible mandatory drug and alcohol treatment
  • Possible mandatory ignition interlock device installed in vehicle

Fourth DUI And Beyond

On a fourth drunk driving conviction (and any subsequent), the charge upgrades from misdemeanor to Class E felony. The penalties also increase:

  • At least one year of jail time, 150 consecutive days of which must be served
  • Loss of license for at least five years without possibility to obtain restricted license
  • $3,000 to $15,000 in fines, plus full payment of other costs and restitutions
  • Possible vehicle seizure/forfeiture
  • Possible mandatory drug and alcohol treatment
  • Possible mandatory ignition interlock device installed in vehicle

Aggravating Circumstances

Under DUI laws in Tennessee, if drunk driving resulted in another crime or offense, the charge can automatically upgrade in severity and possible penalties. These aggravating circumstances include the following:

  • Vehicular assault (injury to another person while drunk driving) — Class D felony punishable by two to four years' incarceration and loss of license for up to five years
  • Child endangerment (DUI with a passenger under age 13) — Class D felony if a child is seriously injured, punishable by two to four years in jail; Class C felony if a child is killed, punishable by three to six years' incarceration; mandatory loss of license
  • Vehicular homicide (causing a fatal crash while drunk driving) — Class B felony punishable by incarceration, and by loss of license for three to 10 years without possibility to obtain restricted license
  • Aggravated vehicular assault (two or more prior DUI convictions or vehicular assault convictions, or any combination, or a BAC of .20 percent or higher at time of vehicular homicide with one prior DUI or vehicular assault conviction) — Class A felony

New Tennessee DUI Laws In 2011

In 2011, Tennessee drunk drinking laws became even stricter than before. New provisions include the following:

  • An ignition interlock device (costing at minimum $60/month) is now a mandatory DUI penalty in certain instances:
    • If your BAC is measured at .15 percent or higher
    • If your BAC is measured at .08 or higher and you have a minor (under age 18) passenger
    • If you are involved in an accident that results in serious injury
    • If you are involved in an accident that results in property damage costing over $400
    • If you refuse to take a breath or BAC test
  • Certain repeat DUI offenders can be denied bail or bond if a judge determines that they are likely to commit another DUI and are therefore a danger to the community.

If you're charged with drunk driving in Tennessee, we can help you. We offer useful guidance and provide a solid defense that helps you achieve the best outcome possible in your DUI case.

Talk To A Nashville Attorney If You Face A DUI

For more information about DUI services at the Stover Law Group, call my office at 615-649-6278 or contact us online so we can discuss your case in a free initial phone consultation. We represent clients in Nashville and throughout Middle Tennessee, including Murfreesboro, Clarksville, Gallatin, Shelbyville and Lebanon.