DUI in Tennessee

In Tennessee, DUI laws are very much like those in other states, and rather strict, so it's essential to know what they are so that you will not make the mistake of breaking them accidentally and then having to face the consequences.

Below is a table outling the general punshments you can expect if convicted of a DUI in Tennessee. Keep in mind, the penalties vary per case, so these are meant to be a quick guide. If you are facing a DUI, it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney. They will ensure you receive the best possible outcome.

Tennessee DUI Penalties

Court Fines Potential Jail Time License Suspension
1st Conviction $350-1,500 1 Day to 11 Months
1 Year
2nd Conviction $600-3,500 45 Days to 11 Months
2 Years
3rd Conviction $1,100-$10,000 120 days - 11 Months
3 to 10 Years
4th Conviction $3,000-15,000
Min. 1 year Minimum of 5 Years

The DUI Law

There are two ways in which to convict a person for drunk driving. The first is evidence that there was mental or physical impairment due to intoxication evident in your driving. For instance, if you are swerving from lane to lane or driving very fast or very slow, the officer may have a reasonable cause to stop you and test you to see if you are indeed drunk. Tests will include field sobriety tests (such as walking in a straight line or reciting the alphabet backwards) and chemical tests (such as the urine test or breathalyzer). You are technically allowed to refuse these tests, but it is not recommended because it results in the immediate suspension of your license for a period of one to two years.

The other method in which you can be convicted is the per se method, where it does not matter how sober you seem to be, as long as your blood alcohol content is 0.08% or higher. Thus, even if you have high alcohol tolerance and can function with plenty of alcohol in your blood, you can still be arrested.


The DUI law in Tennessee requires the prosecutor to prove many things beyond a reasonable doubt. The government is required to prove that you were indeed operating (or physically controlling—that is, sitting in the driver's seat with the keys) a motor vehicle on a public road (private roads do not count) under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You can also be convicted for taking a prescribed medicine that has impaired you in some manner.


The consequences of DUI in Tennessee are quite intense and strict. The first offense DUI may result in a jail sentence of 11 months, which can greatly disrupt your life if you did not mean to drive while drunk. Also, you are required to pay a minimum of $350 in fines and will lose your driver's license for an entire year. In addition, you are required to be enrolled in a course that will educate you about DUI, and you must pay for the course yourself. On the second offense, you may be required to forfeit your vehicle. On the fourth offense, your action is considered a felony.

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