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DUI & DWI in Tennessee

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Tennessee DUI & DWI

Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs (DUI/DWI) is a serious offense in Tennessee and can carry heavy consequences.

Along with risking your own life and the lives of others, you can face criminal penalties in court for DUIs and other alcohol-related driving offenses.

On this page you'll find the definition of a DUI, the penalties a DUI carries, and the steps you may need to take to reinstate your Tennessee driver's license.

Tennessee DUI Definitions

In Tennessee, a DUI is defined as driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08%.

However, depending on the circumstances of your offense, you may receive DUI penalties with BAC of less than the legal limit.

You may also receive DUI-type penalties for refusing to submit to the blood alcohol test when arrested on suspicion of a DUI.

Like many states Tennessee has a "implied consent" law. This means that if you drive in Tennessee you are agreeing that you would submit to a chemical test if asked to do so by law enforcement. If you refuse then you will automatically lose your license. How long your license is suspended will depend on how may times you have refused a chemical test and whether or not the incident involves an accident.

  • 1st offense: 1 year.
  • 2nd offense: 2 years.
  • 1st offense crash involving injury: 2 years.
  • 1st offense crash involving death: 5 years.

Tennessee DUI Penalties

The penalties for a DUI/DWI in Tennessee are heavy. Not only will you face a driver's license suspension, but you'll also likely face criminal charges in court.

Your penalties and requirements may vary depending on the circumstances of your DUI. If anyone was hurt or killed as a result of your DUI, you can expect a lot of jail time on top of heavy fines and retribution requirements. You may also be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on your vehicle when your license is reinstated or if you are eligible for a restricted license. See below for more information on IIDs.

Your criminal court requirements may include the following:

  • For a 1st offense, you may face:
    • 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
    • A fine of $350 to $1,500
    • A driver's license suspension/revocation of 1 year.
    • Court and administrative costs of up to $4,900.
  • For a 2nd offense, you may face:
    • Jail time of 45 days to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
    • A fine of $600 to $3,500.
    • A driver's license suspension/revocation of 2 years.
    • Eligible for restricted license after serving 1 year of suspension.
    • A mandatory forfeit of your vehicle.
  • For a 3rd offense of a DUI, you may face:
    • 120 days to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
    • Fines of $1,100 to $10,000.
    • A mandatory forfeit of your vehicle.
    • Not eligible for a restricted license.
    • A driver's license suspension/revocation of 6 to 10 years.
  • For a 4th offense or subsequent DUI offenses, you will be charged with a Class E felony and may face:
    • 1 year in jail.
    • $3,000 to $15,000 in fines.
    • A mandatory forfeit of your vehicle.
    • Not eligible for a restricted license.
    • A driver's license suspension/revocation for 8 years.

NOTE: If you refuse to submit to a BAC/breathalyzer test, you can still face driver's license suspensions and fines, even if you're below the legal limit.

Underage Drinking and Driving

If you are younger than 21 years old, you can receive a DUI or driving while impaired (DWI) offense even if your BAC is under the legal limit. Any trace of alcohol can result in a DWI charge.

Penalties for an underage DUI/DWI may include:

  • A TN driver's license suspension/revocation for 1 year.
  • A $250 fine.
  • Court-ordered community service.

Tennessee Ignition Interlock

Vehicle ignition interlock devices ensure that a car cannot be started if the driver has a certain blood alcohol concentration.

Depending on the severity of your DUI/DWI, a judge may order you to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car. This device must be installed by an approved provider. You will be responsible for the costs, which include:

  • Installation fee: Maximum of $150.
  • Leasing, maintenance, and/or monitoring fee: Maximum $100 per month.
  • Removal fee: Maximum $75.
  • If you are convicted of a DUI 2 times in 5 years, you will be required to pay for an ignition interlock device and keep it in your vehicle for 6 months after you reinstate your TN driver's license.

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Reinstating Your TN Driver's License

Once you satisfy your court sentence and complete the duration of your driver's license suspension/revocation, you'll need to reinstate your driver's license with the Tennessee Department of Safety (DPS).

Your reinstatement requirements may vary depending on the circumstances of your DUI, but will typically involve:

  • Completion of a drug and alcohol treatment and education program.
  • Driver's license application fees and tests.
  • Providing proof of car insurance with an SR-22.
  • Tennessee DPS fees, which may include a:
    • $100 reinstatement fee.
    • $3 certification fee.
    • $50 SR22 insurance filing fee.
    • $75 fee, if you did not surrender your driver's license at the time of revocation/suspension.

Other fees may apply based on your unique circumstances. For more information about what may be required to reinstate your driver's license, please visit our Suspended License in Tennessee page.

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