DUI

What are the punishments for a DUI in Tennessee?

All DUI convictions, regardless of if this is your first time or you are a repeat offender, include mandatory jail time, the forfeiture of your driver's license, fines, classes, substance abuse treatment, and installation of an ignition interlock device. Although usually charged as a misdemeanor, even a first-time DUI still has serious ramifications, including:

- Mandatory 48-hour incarceration

- If your BAC was over .20, you must spend seven consecutive days in jail.

- License revoked for one year

- $350-1,500 fine

- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device at your own expense - this can cost upwards of $1,000 over the course of the year 

What fines and court costs come with a DUI?

Factoring in towing, bail, attorney, elevated insurance, court costs, DUI school and license reinstatement fees, the average costs of a first-time DUI conviction could add up to $4,900.

What is the ignition interlock device?

An ignition interlock device requires the driver to submit a breath test in order to start the vehicle. If the device detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start. The offender is responsible for the cost of installing the device and having it serviced and inspected regularly. 

The device is small (about the size of cellphone), and is installed into the starting circuit of a vehicle. The driver blows into the device, and if the device registers a BAC under .02, the vehicle starts as it normally does. If a BAC of .02 or over is detected, the vehicle will not start.

What is a "running retest"?

Running retests are a feature of the interlock device that is designed to prevent drivers from having a sober friend blow into the device to start the car. At regular intervals, the interlock will require the driver to provide a breath test; if the driver fails a running retest, the horn will honk and/or the lights will flash, and the vehicle cannot be turned off. This will alert local law enforcement, who are trained to look for these signs.

Is a DUI a Felony in Tennessee?

A DUI is a misdemeanor the first three times you are convicted. A DUI is a Class E felony in Tennessee beginning with the fourth conviction. This is punishable by

  • $3,000-15,000 fine
  • 365 days in jail, with no fewer than 150 consecutive days
  • License revoked for eight years
  • Your vehicle can be seized/forfeited

What is the legal limit in drunk driving cases?

The legal limit for an adult to in drunk driving cases is .08 percent. For someone under age 18, the legal limit is .02 percent under current Tennessee law. For persons of any age driving a commercial vehicle such as a tractor-trailer, or any other commercial vehicle, the legal limit is .04 percent.

Why do the police have to wait before giving you a breath test?

It is a law in Tennessee that a police officer must observe you for 20 minutes before the breath alcohol test (such as a breathalyzer) is administered. The reason? Anything from a burp, belch or hiccup could contaminate the breath test - even residuals from something like a Tic-Tac could skew the results of the test. If the police officer is not continuously watching you for the 20 minutes prior to the breath test, the defense can move to keep the test from being admitted into evidence. For example, if the police officer is texting on his phone, typing on the computer in his squad car, or talking to another police officer during the 20 minutes he is supposed to be observing you, your defense team can keep the results of your breathalyzer from being admitted in court. Knowing regulations like this is why it is important to hire an experienced DUI defense lawyer in Tennessee!

Can I get restricted license in Tennessee if I was convicted of a DUI?

Maybe. People convicted of a first-offense DUI may be able to obtain a restricted license. This allows them to drive to and from school, work or their court-ordered alcohol DUI education program. If you have been convicted of a second-offense DUI, you must serve at least one year of the license revocation period before petitioning the court for a restricted license. There are several steps necessary to being granted restricted license by the court where you were convicted of DUI: obtaining SR-22 insurance, passing a driver's license exam, and paying a fee for the restricted license.



1st Offense2nd Offense3rd Offense4th Offense

Jail

48 hours to 11 months 29 days

45 days to 1 year

120 days to 1 year

150 days to 6 years

Fines and Penalties

$350-$1,500

$600-$3,500

$1,100-$10,000

$3,000-$15,000

License Suspension

1 year

2  years

3 to 10 years

5 Years to (indefinite)

Ignition Interlock Device?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes