Understanding DUI Laws in Tennessee: A Comprehensive Guide

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that carries significant legal consequences in every state, including Tennessee. With strict laws and penalties in place, it is crucial for residents and visitors alike to understand the intricacies of DUI regulations in the Volunteer State. From blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits to penalties and potential defenses, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby provides a comprehensive overview of DUI laws in Tennessee.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits

In Tennessee, like most states, the legal BAC limit for non-commercial drivers aged 21 and older is 0.08 percent. For commercial drivers, those who hold a CDL, the limit is lower at 0.04 percent. Additionally, for drivers under 21, Tennessee enforces a zero-tolerance policy, meaning any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can result in a DUI charge.

Tennessee Implied Consent Law

Tennessee operates under an implied consent law, which means that by operating a motor vehicle on the state’s roadways, drivers automatically consent to chemical testing (such as breath, blood, or urine) if lawfully arrested for suspicion of DUI. Refusing to submit to such testing can lead to administrative penalties, including license suspension, regardless of whether the driver is ultimately convicted of DUI.

Penalties for DUI in Tennessee

The penalties for DUI offenses in Tennessee vary depending on factors such as prior convictions and aggravating circumstances. For a first offense, penalties typically include fines, license suspension ranging from one year to indefinitely, mandatory participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program, and possible jail time of up to 11 months and 29 days. Subsequent offenses carry harsher penalties, including longer license suspensions, higher fines, and mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Aggravating Factors

Certain factors can exacerbate DUI penalties in Tennessee. These may include having a BAC above 0.20 percent, driving with a passenger under 18 years old, causing bodily injury or death while under the influence, or having prior DUI convictions within a specified timeframe. In such cases, the offender may face enhanced fines, longer license suspensions, and mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Ignition Interlock Devices

In Tennessee, individuals convicted of DUI may be required to install and pay for an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle. An IID requires the driver to pass a breathalyzer test before starting the vehicle, serving as a deterrent against driving under the influence. The length of time an IID is required varies depending on the offense and any prior convictions.

Alternative Sentencing Options

In some cases, individuals charged with DUI may be eligible for alternative sentencing options, such as diversion programs or probation. These programs typically involve completing substance abuse education or treatment, community service, and complying with other court-ordered requirements. Successful completion of such programs may result in reduced charges or dismissal of the DUI offense.

Defenses Against DUI Charges

When facing DUI charges in Tennessee, defendants have the right to mount a defense against the allegations. Common defenses may include challenging the legality of the traffic stop, disputing the accuracy of chemical test results, questioning the officer’s observations or conduct during the arrest, or presenting evidence of a medical condition that could affect BAC readings. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can review the facts and circumstances of your DUI arrest and explain possible defense strategies to you. For this reason alone, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected and that all avenues to avoiding a conviction are thoroughly explored.

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you have been charged with, or are being investigated for, driving under the influence (DUI) in the State of Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett