Tennessee State Laws and Requirements

Tennessee DUI and DWI Laws and Penalties

In the state of Tennessee, receiving a DUI conviction is a serious situation. If you’re convicted with a DUI, you could face penalties that span the gamut from a fine all the way up to lengthy prison sentences. In most cases, you’ll have to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) even after your first offense. Understanding Tennessee DUI laws is critical, especially if you’ve been charged with or convicted of a DUI. However, the legal system can be complicated, and determining which laws apply to your situation can be difficult.

Here are the basic Tennessee DUI laws that every driver in the state should know.

Is it Legal to Drive? BAC Levels and Legality in Tennessee

In the state of Tennessee, it’s always illegal to drive if your BAC level is 0.08% or higher. This law applies to every driver, regardless of age or occupation. However, if you are an underage driver, having any alcohol in your system is illegal. Here are some BAC laws you should be aware of if you’re driving in Tennessee.


  • Under 21 – If you’re under the age of 21, a BAC of 0.01% is illegal. If you’re pulled over and your BAC test shows any alcohol, it’s automatically considered to be illegal because you’re not of legal drinking age.


  • Under 18 – Any measurable sign of alcohol while driving a vehicle is illegal in the state of Tennessee. In some cases, you may be required to go to juvenile court.
  • Commercial Vehicle – If you’re driving a vehicle that requires a commercial license in the state of Tennessee and you’re given a sobriety test, any level above 0.04% is considered illegal due to the fact that commercial drivers have increased responsibilities and often have larger payloads than the average commuter.
  • Repeat Offender – If you’re a repeat offender, the law varies as to what’s acceptable. Consult your attorney for information relating to your specific case.



Circumstantial DUI Laws in Tennessee

Aside from age restrictions, you’ll also face a variety of penalties depending on your specific situation. Tennessee DUI laws assign different penalties to different drivers depending on how many offenses they’ve had in the past for driving under the influence or drunk driving. While each situation is different and it’s important to consult your attorney for case-specific information, here are the basic laws governing Tennessee DUI convictions.

First Offense

In the state of Tennessee, your first DUI offense can carry with it some steep penalties. Here’s what you can expect if you’ve been convicted of a DUI/DWI in Tennessee for the first time.


  • Fines from $350 to $1,500.


  • License Suspension of up to a year could occur. You’ll likely have your license revoked if you refuse to take the BAC test.
  • Imprisonment  to last a minimum of 48 hours unless your BAC was .20 or higher, in which case your minimum will be seven days in jail.
  • IID installation – You’ll likely be required to install an IID device in Tennessee by a state-approved vendor. The length of time during which you’ll have to utilize the IID varies by case.



Second Offense

If you’re caught drinking and driving for a second time in Tennessee, you’ll be imposed to the same variety of penalties that you were on your first offense. However, the severity of most of these penalties will be increased. You may be subjected to any one of the following penalties, or a combination thereof, if you obtain a second DUI conviction in Tennessee.


  • Fines of $600 to $3,500.


  • License revocation of two years and automatic revocation if you refuse a breathalyzer test.
  • Imprisonment lasting from 45 days to one year.
  • IID installation will be required for a period of time to be decided by the courts. Your vehicle can also be confiscated. It just depends on what the officials decide is appropriate given your case. If you’ve faced revocation, Tennessee law mandates a period of IID installation as determined by the courts once you get your license back and your driving will be restricted to approved locations only.



Third Offense

While the fines remain about the same for third-time DUI offenders in Tennessee, the prison time and length of license suspension can increase greatly. Here’s the typical set of penalties you’ll be facing if you’re convicted of a third DUI in Tennessee.


  • Fines from $1,100 to $10,000.


  • License revocation to last anywhere from six to 10 years with automatic revocation if you refuse a breathalyzer.
  • Imprisonment from three to seven years.
  • IID installation will be required for a period of time to be decided by the courts if you’re allowed to return to driving with a restricted license.



Fourth and subsequent DUI convictions in Tennessee will land you in jail for a minimum of a year, expose you to fines ranging from $3,000 to $15,000, and subject you to an eight-year license revocation with no opportunity for a restricted license.

Restricted Driving Privileges in Tennessee

If you’ve been convicted of a DUI in Tennessee, you may be able to apply for and obtain a restricted license which will allow you to drive to certain locations under a given set of parameters. Whether or not you obtain a restricted license is largely dependant on individual factors, so there’s no way to be sure of your eligibility other than to consult with your Tennessee DUI attorney. Once you obtain your restricted driving permit, you’ll have to get an ignition interlock device installed in Tennessee by a state-approved service provider within a certain period of time, usually two weeks. Your specific mandates will depend on your case, your court order, and surrounding circumstances, so be sure to ask the professionals handling your case what you need to do in order to stay out of trouble and get back on track.

IID Installation in Tennessee

If you’ve been convicted of a DUI in Tennessee and you’re required to install an IID, that installation will be initiated by a court order. Once you receive the order from the court you can go to a state-approved service provider for your IID installation. Depending on your county and unique situation, your court order may require you to have an IID installation that comes with a DMV connection. Only a state-approved and registered service provider will be able to fulfill the court order and help you get back on track.

While the installation of an IID can restore some of your driving privileges, you won’t always be able to drive anywhere you please. In some cases, you’ll be restricted only to work, school, and necessary appointments. Further legal proceedings and ongoing maintenance of your IID device and scheduled appointments will likely also be required.  

While the information reflected here is current as of this writing, laws do change from time to time and unique circumstances may change the penalties and requirements that you’re subject to. Contact your attorney for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding your specific case.

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