DUI- The crime and penalties in Tennessee

Getting a DUI is a life changing experience. Many times, the people charged with this crime have little to no experience with the criminal justice system and have no idea what to expect. DUI also is a crime which law enforcement and District Attorneys are very aggressive in prosecuting. The blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in Tennessee is .08, this can mean as few as two drinks for some people. A persons BAC will depend on many factors, such as weight, time period in which drinks are consumed, a persons individual rate of metabolism, and many others.

Driving Under the Influence is one of the few crimes for which an individual can be convicted solely on the opinion of a police officer. While most Tennessee DUI offenses are classified as misdemeanors (although a fourth-offense is a Class E felony in Tennessee), the penalties for Tennessee DUI are typically much more serious.


Upon conviction for First Offense DUI in Tennessee, a person is subject to a maximum sentence of 11 months, 29 days, with a minimum of 48 hours in jail, or a minimum of 7 days in jail if, at the time of the offense, the defendant’s blood alcohol level was .20% or higher. A first offense also require a minimum $350.00 fine and court costs; the loss of driver’s license for a period of one year; and enrollment in a court approved DUI education course.

Attendance at AA meetings may also be required. License revocation for one year is also required when a defendant is found to have refused to submit to a chemical test (blood, breath, or urine) after being lawfully requested to do so. This may apply even where the defendant is not convicted of DUI.

Penalties for a second or subsequent conviction of DUI increase dramatically. On a second or subsequent offense, the vehicle used in the offense is subject to forfeiture. A fourth or subsequent conviction of DUI is classified as a Felony.

To be charged with a second offense DUI, the alleged offense must occur within 10 years of the first offense. A second offense carries a mandatory jail time of 45 days and a fine between $600 and $3,500. Second offense also carries with it a mandatory loss of license for a period of 2 years.

The mandatory jail time, mandatory fine, and mandatory loss of license increases dramatically upon each conviction of DUI. If you are charged with DUI, it is crucial you obtain legal representation so your legal rights are protected. Our firm has handled many DUI cases and is experienced in ensuring that the State can prove each element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt.


Tennessee DUI law requires the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was (1) operating or in physical control of (2) a motor vehicle on (3) any public road, highway, alley, parking lot, or any other premises generally frequented by the public while (4) under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. Failure of the state to prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt will result in an acquittal.