A conviction for drinking and driving in Tennessee carries relatively mild penalties if you have a clean prior record. But not so mild that you should not take the matter seriously.
For one thing, state law requires a sentence of at least 48 hours in jail, though the judge can sentence you to up to 11 months and 29 days in jail. If the prosecutor proves that your blood-alcohol content was .20 percent or higher, the law requires that you serve at least seven consecutive days behind bars. You can also be fined between $350 – $1500 and face more in court costs and legal fees.
Losing your driver’s license
Unpleasant as spending a couple of nights in jail would be, it is unlikely to disrupt your life seriously. But a yearlong driver’s license suspension, which comes with a DUI conviction, definitely could. Without the ability to drive legally, you could lose your independence — and, potentially, your job. To regain your driving privileges before the year is up, you can apply to get an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle. This device won’t let you start your engine until you have blown into it, and the device does not read any alcohol on your breath. You must pay for the device and installation yourself.
In addition, the judge might order you to participate in an alcohol treatment program. While this may benefit you in the long run, it is also an imposed burden on your time.
Before you do anything, learn your rights and options
Tennessee punishes DUI severely, especially second and third offenses. Before pleading guilty, you need to know what the consequences could be. Knowing your options can help you proceed smartly.