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© 2023 by Kenneth Redditt

DUI Charges

The following list is only a general overview of the penalties for DUI convictions in Tennessee. If you are charged with DUI you should consult with an experienced DUI attorney concerning the facts and circumstances in your individual case.

Pleading guilty is the number one mistake made in DUI Defense.

Under Age Drinking DUI

Tennessee has a drinking age of 21 years old and the consumption of alcohol by anyone under the drinking age is illegal. There are some exceptions to this law; however, and consumption of alcohol for religious purposes is accepted. This does not affect the law regarding driving under the influence, underage drinkers still cannot operate a vehicle after consuming alcohol. If an underage drinker is pulled over and has a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of .02% or higher, they may be cited for DUI. The age of the suspect plays a part in the determination of the consequences.

 

Potential Penalties for Underage DUI

If between ages 16 and 18, an underage DUI offense is punishable by a license suspension for up to one year, a fine of up to $250 and up to 48 hours in prison. If between ages 18 and 21, the penalties may differ, such as:

First Drunk Driving Conviction:

  • Up to 11 months in prison

  • A fine between $350 and $1,000

  • Up to one year license suspension

Second Drunk Driving Conviction (within 10 years of the first):

  • Between 45 days and one year in prison

  • A fine between $600 and $3,500

  • Up to a two year license suspension

The Tennessee DUI statute is codified at 55-10-401. That section states: “It is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the State, any shopping center, trailer park, apartment house complex or any other location which is generally frequented by the public at large, while:

  1. under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of himself which he would otherwise possess.                                                                                     

  2. the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (0.08%) or more; or                                                                                                                                                                        

  3. with a blood alcohol concentration of four-hundredths of one percent (0.04%) and the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle
    “Under the influence” is a conclusory phrase and a determination of whether one is or isn’t is very subjective. For this reason, a detailed analysis of all of the evidence to be presented in a DUI case is essential to ensure that every possible defense is uncovered and explored.

If arrested for DUI, you will likely be held in jail for a minimum of six hours before you are released on bond. In our local jurisdictions, most, if not all DUI arrestees must post a bond. Upon being released from the jail, you will be given an initial court date. The original date is a first appearance and most of the time the officer is not subpoenaed to court that first date. Thereafter, you will receive a hearing date. The case begins in one of our municipal courts (Red Bank, Soddy Daisy, Collegedale or East Ridge) or in General Sessions Court.

In these courts you may enter a plea, have a preliminary hearing, or in rare instances where the Assistant District Attorney agrees, you may have a trial. If the preliminary hearing is waived or lost, the case goes to the grand jury and moves to Criminal Court or Circuit Court depending on the jurisdiction. In this court you may have a trial by judge or jury or enter a plea.

If you are facing DUI charges, it is important to contact an experienced DUI practitioner as soon as possible to ensure that all of your rights are preserved at every stage of litigation and to assist you in determining the best course of action at every proceeding.

The Tennessee DUI statute is codified at 55-10-401. That section states: “It is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the State, any shopping center, trailer park, apartment house complex or any other location which is generally frequented by the public at large, while:

  1. under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of himself which he would otherwise possess.                                                    

  2. the alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (0.08%) or more; or                               

  3. With a blood alcohol concentration of four-hundredths of one percent (0.04%) and the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle

 

1st offense DUI – Class A misdemeanor

    • Up to 11 months and 29 days in jail with a mandatory minimum of 48 hours to serve. If breath or blood results are .20 or greater, the mandatory minimum is 7 days to serve.

    • $350.00 fine

    • 3 days public works

    • DUI school

    • 1 year loss of license (restricted license available for a TN licensee with an interlock)

2nd offense: Class A misdemeanor

    • Up to 11 months and 29 days in jail with a mandatory minimum of 45 days to serve.

    • $600.00-$3,500.00 fine

    • 2 year loss of license (restricted license available for a TN licensee with an interlock)

    • Interlock required for an additional 6 months after reinstatement

    • Seizure of vehicle

3rd offense: Class A misdemeanor

    • Up to 11 months and 29 days in jail with a mandatory minimum of 120 days to serve.

    • $1,100.00 -$10,000.00 fine

    • 6 year loss of license (restricted license available for a TN licensee with an interlock)

    • Interlock required for an additional 6 months after reinstatement

    • Seizure of vehicle

4th offense or greater: Felony

    • Up to 6 years in jail with a mandatory minimum of 150 days to serve.

    • $3,000.00 -$15,000.00 fine

    • 8 year loss of license (restricted license available for a TN licensee with an interlock)

    • Interlock required for an additional 6 months after reinstatement

    • Seizure of vehicle

Note: If at the time of the DUI offense, the person was accompanied by a child under 18 years of age, the person’s sentence shall be enhanced by a mandatory minimum of 30 days to be served in addition to the penalty for the DUI and an additional $1,000.00 fine.

 

DUI Convictions are for Life

 

It is important to be aware that DUI, unlike many other crimes, is not expungeable from your record unless your case is won or dismissed. A DUI conviction remains on your record for life.

For this reason, there are many other unforeseen collateral consequences of a DUI conviction in addition to the statutory penalties listed above.

A few examples are:

    • Loss of car insurance or sky high premiums

    • Loss of job due to negative impact on a professional license or security clearance; additionally, many military offenders will suffer sanctions within the military in addition to the state penalties such as loss of driving privileges on base, loss of rank, and suspended pay

    • Inability to travel freely outside of the United States

    • Immigration problems

    • Inability to get certain jobs