DUI Penalties in Tennessee


Everybody knows that driving under the influence is a dangerous risk that puts the driver as well as innocent bystanders directly in harm’s way.

Or at least, everyone should know that.

Unfortunately, the simple fact of the matter is that too many people all across the country still drive drunk or under the influence.

The worst part of all is that the decisions of those drunk drivers have had serious, and often deadly, consequences.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a driver under the influence of alcohol – that is, with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher.

In Tennessee alone, there were 3,423 people killed in crashes involving a drunk driver from 2003 to 2012.

Furthermore, the rate of drunk driving-related deaths for people ages 21 to 34 was eight per 100,000 people in Tennessee in 2012, according to the CDC – well above the national average of 6.7.

As you can see, DUI statistics are often unpleasant and sobering, for lack of a better term.

A DUI charge can cause endangerment, hurt personal relationships and even be a cause for unemployment.

So, what can you do if you’re charged with a DUI? What are your legal options? What sort of penalties, costs and legal implications can you expect?

Navigating your DUI case and understanding the implications and penalties associated with it can be complicated, confusing and upsetting.

That’s why the DUI defense lawyers at Cavett, Abbott & Weiss, PLLC, never endorse drinking or driving.

However, we at Cavett, Abbott & Weiss know that our clients need help in even the toughest of situations. And with over 60 years as DUI defense attorneys, we can offer that DUI help to those in Chattanooga and help you get back on your feet.

So, to get you started with DUI help, we’re going to lay out Tennessee’s DUI penalties in a way that is informative and helpful.

The penalties for a DUI in Tennessee can be varied and complex, whether you’re a first-time offender or fourth-time offender.

So remember, if you need DUI help, contact the experts at Cavett, Abbott & Weiss, PLLC, to schedule your consultation today.


As we stated earlier, a DUI can (and usually is) issued if a driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has laid the different DUI offenses in full on their site.

According to them, a first-time DUI offense can include from 48 hours up to 11 months, 29 days in jail time. If your BAC is higher than .20, you’ll be subjected to a minimum of seven days of consecutive jail time.

A refusal to submit to blood alcohol testing can also result in a revocation of your driver’s license between one year (if it’s your first offense) or five years if the crash resulted in a death (the Most Aggravated Drunk Driving Law).

DUI offenders are also required to pay a fine ranging from $350 to $1,500, though with other expenses like towing, bail, an attorney, insurance, court costs, an alcohol and drug treatment program, and reinstatement fees, your first-time costs could be closer to $5,000.

Furthermore, first-time offenders can have their license revoked for one year, with some restricted licenses available.

It may also be required that you have an Ignition Interlock Device installed at your expense, which can tack on an additional $1,000-plus in the first year.

Of course, every case is different and at Cavett, Abbott & Weiss, PLLC, we’ll work to get you the DUI help you need to get you back on your feet.


Of course, the penalties for multiple DUI offenses in Tennessee are more significant.

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, offenders who need DUI help for a second time can face from 45 days to 11 months, 29 days in jail, a $600-$3,500 fine, license revocation for up to two years and possibly even vehicle seizure or forfeiture.

Second time offenders can also be ordered to attend an alcohol and drug treatment program, resulting in higher costs.

Third time offenders can serve a minimum of 120 days and a maximum of 11 months, 29 days in jail while paying fines from $1,100 to $10,000. Third time offenses can also lead to license revocation for up to six years.

Also, if you have two DUI convictions within five years of one another, you can be subject to installing an Ignition Interlock Device for six months after license reinstatement, all at your expense.


The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security also includes an outline of the penalties for offenders who are charged with their fourth DUI and subsequent DUIs after that.

Receiving four or more DUI charges is labeled as a Class E Felony, which carries a sentence of one year of jail time with a minimum of 150 days served consecutively.

Fourth time offenders are also subject to having their licenses revoked for eight years, fines upwards of $15,000, vehicle forfeiture and more.

Furthermore, DUI offenders can also be required to pay restitution to any person suffering from personal injury or loss as a result of the offender’s decision.

Other DUI-related penalties can include vehicular assault, a Class D felony carrying jail time from two to 12 years, child endangerment (a DUI with a passenger under 18), or even vehicular homicide, a Class B Felony.


So, back to the original question.

What can you do if you get a DUI?

The risks and penalties of driving under the influence are grave. But if you do get a DUI, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

When reviewing your DUI case, we’ll ask you to remember the basics:

  • Were you read your rights?
  • Did the officer have you complete the roadside maneuvers?
  • Were you still arrested even though you passed the roadsides?

From there, we will get to work on your case. If you need DUI help, don’t hesitate. Act swiftly by contacting Cavett, Abbott & Weiss today.

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