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DUI laws and penalties in Tennessee

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2024 | Criminal Cases & DUI

The dangers of drunk driving are well known in Tennessee; however, arrests for DUI remains one of the most common arrests in the state. Drunk driver is treated seriously in Tennessee, which is why those accused of a DUI should also take it seriously. The consequences and impact of a DUI could be significant and severe, making it imperative that you understand and consider all your defense options to help reduce or even dismiss the allegations against you.

Tennessee DUI Laws

The basis of a DUI charge could vary in Tennessee, as the circumstances of the stop and result of the tests could lessen or heighten the matter. Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC is a strong indicator of a DUI charge.

In Tennessee, the “per se” BAC limit is 0.08%. This means that even if an individual does not feel intoxicated, if their BAC is at this level or higher, they could face a DUI charge. Actual impairment does not need to be proven if a BAC test shows the driver is at or over the legal limit.

For underage driver, there is a zero tolerance BAC limit. While this does not mean it must be 0.00%, it does require an underage driver to have a BAC under 0.02%. Thus, if a breath test reveals a BAC of this limit or hire, a DUI charge could result.

Note that an aggravated DUI could result if an individual has a BAC of 0.2% or higher. Additionally, implied consent rules apply. Therefore, if one refuses to submit to a BAC test and are arrested for a DUI, additional penalties could result. For the first refusal, there is a suspension of your driver’s license for a year. A second refusal bumps it up to two years.


The penalties of a DUI are dependent on the details of the charge and the accused’s history. For the first offense, this is a misdemeanor in Tennessee. Penalties could include a fine up to $1,500, jail time ranging from 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days and a license suspension for one year. A second offense carries harsher penalties, including a fine up to $3,500, 45 days to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a two-year license suspension.

While a third offense is still a misdemeanor, the penalties are significant. It includes a fine up to $10,000, 120 days to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a license suspension for six years.

Because the consequences and penalties of a DUI can be severe, it is important to treat a DUI charge seriously. A legal professional can help explain your legal rights and outline your defense options. It is vital that you protect your rights and assert a strong defense.