Drivers who commit DUI offenses in Tennessee are subjected to severe penalties due to the strictness of the laws regulated by the state law enforcement agencies. Drivers convicted of a DUI violation in TN have their conviction entered on their driver’s record and may be penalized with a jail sentence of a specific duration.

To reinstate a DUI suspended license in these cases, drivers are required to meet the restoration criteria imposed by both the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS) and the court presiding over a given case. Learn more about Tennessee DUI penalties that are imposed as a result of violations of state driving laws by reading the sections below.

Tennessee DUI Citations and Convictions

When apprehended on suspicion of committing a DUI violation in Tennessee, drivers receive a DWI citation if they fail the alcohol and/or drug test or refuse to be tested for purposes of determining the presence of intoxicants in their systems. Motorists may be ticketed and arrested for committing a DUI offense even in cases where their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is below the legal limit.

Per the state impaired driving laws, police officers have the authority to retrieve blood samples from suspected drunk drivers by utilizing search warrants. Motorists who are arrested on DWI charges and convicted of their violation thereafter will be penalized with large fines, lengthy license revocations, and community service and/or jail sentences.

Tennessee Under the Influence Violations and Penalties

Drivers are subject to DUI penalties in Tennessee when they violate state laws on DWI. Depending on the number of previous DWI convictions a driver has on record, his or her age and the number and type of laws that were violated, the charges and the potential penalties will vary. Motorists who endanger the lives of passengers younger than 18 years of age, for instance, will be charged with a felony.

First DUI Offense

For first DUI offenses, motorists may be penalized with fines of $350 to $1,500 and license revocations of 1 year. First convictions also result in jail sentences of at least 48 hours. DUI offenders who have violated the state driving laws by operating a vehicle with a BAC of .20 or greater will be required to spend at least 7 days in jail.

Second DUI Offense

Second DWI convictions in Tennessee result in jail sentences of 45 days to 11 months with a mandatory jail stay of at least 29 days and maximum fines of up to $3,500. Second-time DUI offenders will also have their licenses revoked for up to 2 years and their vehicles will be seized and forfeited.

If the second DUI offense was committed within 5 years of the first, the motorist will also be required to drive with an ignition interlock device (IID) for 6 consecutive months after his or her license restoration.

Third DUI Offense

Violating the Tennessee DWI laws for a third time leads to a prison sentence of 11 months with 29 days in jail, fines of up to $10,000 and a 6-year license revocation. Drivers who have committed a third DUI violation in TN will also be required to have an IID installed for 6 months after restoring their licenses.

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Offenses

Felony DUI charges in Tennessee are brought against motorists who commit a fourth or subsequent offense. In these cases, drivers may be penalized with a 1-year prison sentence with a mandatory jail stay of 150 days and fines of up to $15,000. Fourth and subsequent DUI violations in TN are also sanctioned with driving license revocations of 8 years.

Drinking and Driving in Tennessee

The severity of DUI penalties in Tennessee serves to deter the detrimental effects of intoxicants on driving practices of motorists within the state. The risk of committing a traffic violation increases proportionally with the driver’s BAC level.

For example, motorists with an extremely high BAC of .17 percent are at an increased risk of incurring a DWI ticket in TN since their judgment, vision, reaction time and alertness are severely affected.

Therefore, to reduce the number of offenses and the potential injury or fatality of drivers, passengers and pedestrians, state law enforcement agencies administer a combination of the penalties. Drivers who injure or cause the death of other individuals will be charged with aggravated assault or vehicular homicide, respectively, which are offenses that result in much harsher penalties.

Tennessee DUI Attorneys

Motorists who hire a DUI lawyer in Tennessee after committing an offense greatly increase their chances of reducing the potential penalties administered in such cases. The experience and knowledge of a good defense attorney often proves invaluable since drivers may even be charged with felony DUI offenses, depending on the circumstances surrounding their violation.

In addition to preparing an adequate defense strategy by carefully studying the defendant’s case in detail, an experienced attorney can also provide assistance in filling out and submitting the necessary paperwork. However, prior to seeking DUI help in Tennessee with a professional, drivers are encouraged to consult with several candidates in order to ensure they hire a lawyer that can meet their specific needs.

Tennessee Open Container Laws

Under Tennessee DUI laws, drivers are also prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages, including beer, while operating a vehicle within the state. Furthermore, since motorists are at an increased risk of committing a DUI offense if they are transporting open alcoholic beverages, they must ensure that any alcoholic drinks present in their vehicles are sealed and stored out of reach.

Reinstating a Suspended Drivers License in Tennessee

The process of reinstating a DUI suspended license in Tennessee can only be completed after meeting the conditions of your conviction, as set forth by the court presiding over your case. Therefore, prior to paying the cost of DUI reinstatement fees and finalizing the license restoration procedure, you will generally be required to meet the following requirements:

  • Complete the court-set period of revocation or suspension.
  • Undergo an alcohol and/or drug abuse assessment and treatment program.
  • Complete an alcohol safety DUI course in TN.
  • Install an ignition interlock device.
  • Pay restitution to individuals who have suffered injuries or personal losses as a result of your violation.

To reinstate driving privileges that were affected by a conviction, drivers may be required to reapply for a new driving license within the state and file proof of a valid car insurance coverage.

Tennessee Alcohol Awareness Classes

In addition to the consequences outlined above, drivers who violate the state driving laws on may also be required to participate in a mandatory alcohol driving school program.

This specialized DUI course is a type of a traffic school program that focuses on the effects of intoxicants on driving practices and reviews the state laws on DUI. Note that the driver who has committed the DUI offense in Tennessee will be required to cover the costs for the alcohol safety course.

Tennessee SR-22 Insurance

Motorists who are reinstating a suspended license may be required to prove they meet the state financial responsibility laws in certain cases. As proof of DUI insurance, drivers will have to submit the SR-22 form. This filing must be completed by a car insurance company at the offender’s request.

The minimum required coverage is currently set to at least $25,000 for the injury or death of one individual, $15,000 for property damages and $50,000 for all participants in the accident. Drivers may be required to maintain their SR-22 certificate of insurance for up to 5 years from the date of suspension.

Tennessee Laws That Pertain to DUI/DWI

Licensees will be in violation of Tennessee drunk driving laws if a certain amount of alcohol and/or drugs is affecting their ability to drive on any public roadway or while on the premises of public spaces such as parks or shopping centers.

Adult motorists receive a DWI ticket if they are apprehended for driving with a BAC level of .08 percent or greater. However, motorists may even be subjected to a DUI arrest if the police officer believes that they are under the effect of intoxicants, regardless of their BAC level.

Note that licensees younger than 21 years are at risk of DUI penalties even with a BAC level as low as .02 percent, since this group of drivers has not yet reached the legal drinking age.

Restricted License in Tennessee

While completing a Tennessee DUI drivers license suspension or revocation period, motorists will be unable to operate their vehicles. However, if the driver who has committed an offense relies on his or her usage of a motor vehicle to earn wages or study, he or she may be eligible for a restricted driver’s license. Additional eligible purposes for a hardship license will be considered as well.

The procedure to apply for a restricted license after a DWI conviction is reported on the applicant’s driving record can be completed only if the driver:

  • Has not committed another violation within the last 10 years.
  • Has a genuine need for a restricted license.
  • Has completed a certain portion of his or her suspension or revocation (if required).
  • Has installed an ignition interlock device (if required).

Drivers with Tennessee DUI suspended licenses or revoked credentials can apply for a restricted license through a local DMV office once they obtain a court order authorizing them to complete the procedure. After submitting the necessary documents, passing the appropriate tests and paying the fees, the department will process the application for a hardship license.

Last updated on Wednesday, March 4 2020.