Beer in a glass next to car keys and handcuffs

Defining Tennessee’s DUI Laws

Whether a driver believes they’re invincible or simply thinks they didn’t have too much to drink, it is never advisable to get behind the wheel after having alcohol. As we know, though, this happens far too often. In fact, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says not only do dozens of people drive drunk every day, but nearly 30 people die each day because of drunk drivers (or at least one person every hour).

In Tennessee, rules are laid out to discourage drunk driving. Let’s investigate the circumstances surrounding this crime.

What is a DUI?

Someone can be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) if they are believed to be intoxicated above the legal limit. In Tennessee, it is illegal for adults age 21 or older to have more than .08% BAC (blood alcohol concentration) in their system and drive. The state has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21 who are accused of drinking and driving. That means that drivers 16-20 can not be found to have any alcohol in their system while behind the wheel.

Proving a DUI

Tennessee law enforcement may use multiple tactics to prove someone was intoxicated while driving. This can include field sobriety examines such as asking for the driver to blow into a breathalyzer or take a coordination or balance test.

A driver who refuses to participate in any of these tests may not only still be charged with a DUI, but, depending on the severity of the circumstances surrounding the arrest (such as an accident where another driver was injured or killed). they could also be forced to submit a blood or urine sample. This, however, is only in extreme scenarios and can only be conducted if a search warrant is issued.

DUI Consequences

There are various factors that determine the consequences a driver can face even if they are only charged, not convicted, of a DUI.

Refusing a Breathalyzer or Blood Alcohol Test

After the initial stop, law enforcement will usually ask a driver to take a breathalyzer test or other blood alcohol test. If a driver refuses to take these tests, even if they are later found not guilty of a DUI, their driver’s license will automatically be revoked. For a first offense, a driver will lose their license for one year. If it’s a driver’s second offense, they will lose their license for two years. A suspected drunk driver will also lose their license for two years if their actions caused an injury to someone else, even if it’s the driver’s first offense. If someone died because of a suspected drunk driver’s actions, the accused driver will lose their license for at least five years.

Consequences for Convictions

If a driver is convicted of a DUI, they can expect the following consequences:

1st Offense

  • 48 hours to 11 months, 29 days incarceration and
  • Fine from $350-$1,500.

2nd Offense

  • 45 days to 11 months, 29 days incarceration;
  • Fine from $600-$3,500; and,
  • Potential forfeiture or seizure of the vehicle.

3rd Offense

  • 120 days to 11 months, 29 days incarceration;
  • Fine from $1,100-$10,000; and,
  • Potential forfeiture or seizure of the vehicle.

4th and Subsequent Offenses

  • 365 days incarceration with 150 of those days being served consecutively;
  • Fine from $3,000-$15,000; and,
  • Potential forfeiture or seizure of the vehicle.

Each of the above consequences also comes with mandatory participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program and an ignition interlock device installed at the driver’s expense. All the above consequences are in addition to any license suspensions a driver will face.

Don’t Face a DUI Charge Alone

Being caught driving drunk doesn’t mean you will be convicted of a DUI. When you work with the criminal defense team at Meade Law Group, we will review your case and present options to give you the best outcome possible. Reach out today for a free consultation.