Driving while intoxicated with alcohol or other drugs is illegal in Tennessee. A driver is regarded to be “under the influence” of a drug or alcohol if it “affects the driver’s capacity to safely operate a car by depriving the driver of the clearness of control and mind of oneself that the driver would rather have”. Tennessee is known to have some of the strictest DUI laws in the U.S., and the penalties for a first-time DUI offender can be severe.

This detailed guide will explain in detail about the Tennessee DUI laws, as well as what your alternatives are after you have been arrested for driving while drunk.

What are the major DUI laws in Tennessee you need to know?

A DUI (Driving under the Influence) is a crime in Tennessee that happens when a driver operates a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. The most crucial of these laws applies to the legal blood alcohol content limit.

  1. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Legal Limits
    Under Tennessee law, you are regarded to be driving drunk if you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. The state also has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers below the age of 21 who are charged with drinking and driving. Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) can be determined in three ways: urine, blood and breath.

If a person below 21 has a BAC of 0.02 while driving, although they are not essentially drunk, the driver can be found to have committed a DUI offense.

  1. Tennessee DUI Penalties and Sentences
    The penalties for DUI in Tennessee will depend on the exact conditions of each particular case and the number of previous offenses (if any) a driver has. TN DUIs are categorized into three major aspects: the charge, arrest and case.


Working with an experienced DUI attorney who knows driving under the influence laws in Tennessee and will assist you through every step of the process is vital to safeguarding your freedom.

Here are some penalties you need to know about TN DUI laws.

  1. First-time Tennessee DUI
    If it’s your first time being charged with a DUI offense in Tennessee, you need to understand the possible penalties if you are convicted. The penalties upon conviction of a first DUI crime in Tennessee:
  • Jail time: minimum imprisonment of less than 48 hours.
  • Must pay a fine between $500 and $5000.
  • 1-year driver’s license revocation.
  • 24 hours of community service assessed including litter removal on public property and roadways.
  • You must attend an alcohol highway safety school.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment or assessment.


  1. Second Offense TN DUI Laws
    The penalties upon conviction of a second DUI offense in Tennessee:
  • A second-time offender must pay a fine of between $500 and $5000.
  • A judge may also impose up to 150 hours of community service.
  • 2-year driver’s license revocation.
  • Attend a DUI highway safety school.


  1. Tennessee’s 3rd DUI Penalties
    For a third DUI conviction within 10 years, the driver is generally looking at:
  • 120 days to 11 months, 29 days imprisonment in jail.
  • Must pay a fine between $1,100 to $10,000
  • 6 years of driver’s license revocation.


DUI Attorney Kirk Catron

Common DUI Defense Strategies in Tennessee

As a driver facing a DUI charge, it is crucial to be knowledgeable and informed about the various defense strategies available. Understanding the different strategies can assist you in navigating the challenges of DUI defense confidently, and boost your chances of attaining a successful result.

The two common DUI defense strategies are plea bargaining and challenging the police’s evidence. When challenging the police officer’s evidence, you can contest the reason for the initial stop, sobriety tests, or the accuracy of the blood or breath tests.

The other strategy is to get your DUI charge dismissed or reduced via plea bargaining. This involves developing a plea bargaining agreement with your prosecutor, which calls for both parties to agree and strike a deal.

If you have been convicted of DUI, it is crucial to seek legal representation and learn all of your options. A skilled Attorney Kirk Catron can assist you in evaluating your problem and determining which defense strategy is suitable for your case.

What is the legal process for DUI in Tennessee?

If you have recently been charged with drunk driving in Tennessee, then you may be confused about what to expect. The good news is that our DUI defense attorneys will take you through the various steps of the court process and help safeguard your rights.

  1. The first Stop and Arrest
    A Tennessee DUI case starts when you are stopped by a police officer. Once a police officer has a good cause to believe that you are intoxicated, they may arrest you. They can perform sobriety tests to determine the level of impairment.

  2. Arraignment
    This is where you first appear in a Tennessee courtroom. This is an initial hearing that offers you the exact DUI charges you face which needs your plea. The judge may set a bail at this stage. At this stage, our experienced attorney will review the charges and strive to have them dismissed or reduced based on lack of evidence or improper arrest.

  3. General Sessions Court and Grand Jury
    Misdemeanor DUI prosecutions take place in General Sessions Court. Most of these cases are amicably resolved through plea bargaining agreement so they never proceed to court. But, if the plea deal is not struck, the case will continue to a bench trial or preliminary hearing. The judge will determine whether there is any good cause to continue with the case. If so, the case will be subjected to a grand jury.

Contact an Experienced DUI Attorney in Tennessee Today

If you have been charged with DUI in Tennessee, it’s crucial to seek legal help from an experienced Tennessee DUI attorney. At Kirk Catron, we know the complexities of the DUI legal process and can assist you in understanding your legal options.

To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us online or call us at (615) 225-5290 for assistance today.

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