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Tennessee DUI Penalties

Tennessee DUI penalties get more severe with each passing year. Due to pressure from political groups like MADD, you can expect more jail time, extended DUI probation, and no driving of any vehicle for months or even years.

DUI Penalties in Tennessee

Upon conviction for a DUI in Tennessee, the severity of the penalty largely depends on the number of previous offenses one has had. A first-time DUI conviction carries a minimum of 48 hours in jail, while this sentence increases to a 45-60 day minimum for second-time offenders. For third-time DUI offenders, a minimum of 120 days of jail time is mandated, while a fourth-time offense elevates the charge to a Class E felony, requiring a minimum of 150 days of incarceration. The state imposes very harsh penalties for a DUI in Tennessee and these penalties escalate with subsequent convictions.

Even if this is your first DUI, you face serious and life-long penalties like job loss, damaging background checks, limited or no driving, and community service. Your plan of attack should start with being acquitted of DUI charges, or reducing your DUI to a lesser charge like “wet reckless.”

First Offense DUIFirst DUI Penalties in Tennessee

Tennessee’s first DUI penalties have become more severe over the last 10 years. Your friends may tell you that a first DUI is “no big deal”, but that is no longer true. Even a TN first DUI can mean jail time and loss of driver’s license. You will also face the possibility of losing your job and having any potential new employer not hire you because of a DUI on your criminal background check.


As of this year, the current first DUI penalties in Tennessee are:

  • Jail time from 24 hours to 11 months
  • Driver’s license will be revoked for 1 year
  • First-time offenders face fines ranging from $350 to $1,500.
  • Mandatory DUI School

The above first DUI penalties are the minimum for a TN DUI that did not involve injury or death. If your first DUI involved an accident, a hit and run, or other criminal charges, a top DUI lawyer can be invaluable in reducing your charges. Do not take a Tennessee first DUI lightly. And absolutely do not drink and drive again while your first DUI case is proceeding. A second DUI carries much more severe penalties in Tennessee, such as much more jail time.

Second DUI Penalties in Tennessee

A second DUI offense in Tennessee incurs severe penalties, including both immediate and long-term consequences. The offender is subjected to a mandatory minimum of 45 days to a maximum of one year in jail. The monetary fines range from $600 to $3,500, excluding court fees and costs related to substance abuse programs or other court-ordered measures. The individual’s driver’s license is also suspended for a period of two years, which could extend if the offense involved an accident. Additionally, an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) may be required to be installed and maintained at the offender’s own expense. The second DUI conviction creates an indelible mark on the offender’s criminal record, potentially impacting their professional prospects and personal life. These penalties emphasize the seriousness with which Tennessee treats repeat DUI offenses.

  • Jail time minimum of 45 days, but may be as long as 1 year
  • Fines ranging from $600 to $3,500
  • Drivers license suspension for 2 years
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition IID

Third DUI Penalties in Tennessee

A third DUI conviction in Tennessee results in heightened penalties, reflecting the state’s stringent approach towards repeat offenders. Those found guilty are subject to a mandatory minimum jail term of 120 days, extending up to a year. Fines increase significantly, ranging from $1,100 to $10,000, excluding additional court and legal fees or the cost of mandated treatment programs. The offender’s driver’s license is suspended for a period of 6 years, with the precise length often contingent upon the circumstances of the offense. Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) may also be required, at the offender’s expense. This third mark on one’s criminal record can have severe repercussions on professional opportunities and personal relationships, further demonstrating the profound, life-altering consequences of recurrent DUI offenses in Tennessee.

  • Jail time minimum of 120 days, but may be as long as 1 year
  • Fines ranging from $1,100 to $10,000
  • License revocation for 6 years
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol & drug treatment program
  • Once the license revocation is up, you may get a restricted permit along with an IID installed at your own expense

Fourth DUI Penalties in Tennessee

In Tennessee, a fourth DUI offense is regarded as a Class E felony, carrying the weight of serious criminal charges. The mandatory minimum jail term for a fourth-time offender is 150 days, though the total incarceration period could span up to 6 years. Financial penalties also escalate significantly, with fines ranging from $3,000 to $15,000, exclusive of any court costs, legal fees, or expenses related to court-ordered substance abuse treatments. Driving privileges are suspended for a period of 8 years, with the offender likely required to install and maintain an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their vehicle, at their own expense, before regaining their license. The implications of a fourth DUI conviction extend beyond legal and financial burdens, potentially impacting the offender’s employability, reputation, and personal relationships due to the severity of the felony conviction.

  • A class E felony charge
  • 1 year of jail time (minimum of 150 days served)
  • A mandatory fine ranging from $3,000 to $15,000
  • License revocation for 8 years
  • Possibility of vehicle seizure
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol & drug treatment program
  • Once the license revocation is up, you may get a restricted permit along with an IID installed at your own expense

DUI Penalties Can Be Reduced or Eliminated

Tennessee DUI prosecutors are trained to make you look to trip up on the stand. You will have a very difficult time proving your innocence.

Do not give in and plead guilty to a Tennessee DUI! Even if your blood alcohol content, or BAC level, is way over the limit, and the police video of your arrest shows you stumbling and incoherent, your DUI arrest still can be overturned.

Tennessee DUI penalties are harsh, even for first DUI offenders. A strong Tennessee DUI lawyer will fight to reduce or drop all your DUI charges, no matter how damaging the police evidence. Many pre-trial motions can be filed to postpone your DUI court appearances, and eventually exclude damaging police evidence that can lead to your conviction of a Tennessee DUI.

The best course of action is to get your DUI charge reduced to reckless driving, or have your entire DUI case dismissed. An experienced Tennessee DUI attorney knows how to fight, when to fight, and what evidence to fight. If you try to represent yourself, you may be successful, but the overwhelming odds are you will be convicted of DUI.

Never be intimidated, never give up, and hire a professional TN DUI lawyer right away. Tennessee DUI penalties are very harsh, so the goal is to reduce your DUI to a lesser charge.

Further Reading

If you’d like to learn more about Tennessee DUI laws, check out some of our other helpful and informative articles: