Drunk Driving Defense Laws in Tennessee

Drunk driving is a serious offense in Tennessee. For that reason, everyone should make sure they have a designated driver if they will need transportation after they have been consuming alcohol. Mandatory license suspension, harsh jail sentences, and a violation-to-violation charge policy should make drivers think twice about driving after consuming any alcohol in Tennessee.

Blood-Alcohol Concentration in Tennessee

In Tennessee, it is illegal for people to drive if their blood-alcohol concentration is at or above state threshold levels. For people who aren't yet 21, this is .02 percent. For commercial drivers, it is .04 percent. For all other drivers who are at least 21, it is .08 percent. The BAC has to be determined by either a blood test or by two breath tests. If two breath tests are used, both must be at or above the threshold.

Drunk Driving Conviction Penalties

Unlike many other states, Tennessee doesn't have a washout period when considering past DUI or DWI convictions. Instead, the state has used a violation-to-violation policy since 2010. The penalties for drunk driving in Tennessee get harsher with each subsequent conviction.

A first drunk driving conviction has a $350 to $1,500 fine, a minimum of 48 hours in jail, and a one year license suspension. A second conviction has a $600 to $3,500 fine, a minimum of 45 days in jail, and a two year suspension. A third conviction carries an $1,100 to $10,000 fine, a minimum of 120 days in jail, and a 3 to 10 year license suspension. A fourth offense, which is a felony, carries a $3,000 to $15,000 fine, a minimum of 150 consecutive days in jail with a total of one year in jail served, and a minimum of a five year license suspension.

People convicted of drunk driving also face having to use an ignition interlock device. They may also have to complete an alcohol assessment and treatment program. If the ignition interlock system or alcohol assessment and treatment program are ordered, those must be done at the driver's expense. In some cases, the vehicle being driven at the time of the traffic stop can be impounded.

Tennessee DUI School

If you are convicted of DUI in Tennessee, you will likely have to attend “DUI School”, or a DUI education course, in order to have your driver’s license reinstated. This administrative step is a way to help avoid a person's relapse into criminal behavior or a subsequent DUI. Additionally, you may be ordered to complete alcohol rehabilitation if you are convicted, and you must undergo mandatory treatment if you have three or more DUI convictions.

Defense Strategies in Tennessee

Drivers who are charged with drunk driving in Tennessee might be able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving. This plea deal is usually reserved for people who haven't had any drunk driving convictions in the past. Other possible defense strategies might be possible if the person who administered the BAC test isn't licensed or if equipment wasn't properly calibrated and maintained.

Facing drunk driving charges in Tennessee requires a strong defense. For those who are facing these charges, seeking help from a qualified drunk driving lawyer can help them to understand their options. They can then make an informed decision about how to proceed with their drunk driving defense.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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