Tennessee DUI Basics
In most states driving under the influence offenses have varying
degrees of penalties and are considered misdemeanors in most cases. In
Tennessee driving under the influence offenses are considered Class E
Felonies upon a fourth offense, while all previous offenses are
Tennessee also has more severe punishments than most other states. In
order for an individual to be convicted of a driving under the
influence offense the court must agree that the individual was
physically controlling a motor vehicle while on a highway, public road,
parking lot, alley, or other public premise while under the influence
of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. The court may also rule
that the individual had a blood alcohol content level that exceeded the
0.08 legal limit.
Individuals who are arrested for driving under the influence and have
blood alcohol contents above the legal limit can be prosecuted on per
se laws. These laws are based on the chemistry of the body and state
that the offender was driving with an illegal level. Whether or not an
individual was impaired does not matter to per se charges.
Individuals may also be charged on operating under the influence
charges where the prosecution will attempt to prove impairment.
Evidence will be shown to prove whether or not this is true and can
include blood alcohol content levels, driving patterns, field sobriety
tests, urine tests, and physical appearance. An individual may or may
not be convicted based on blood alcohol content since some are not
impaired at the legal limit.
Convictions for driving under the influence are based on prior offenses
and aggravating factors. The more offenses an individual has the more
severe his or her punishments will be. The circumstances around an
arrest can also increase an individual's sentencing. These can include
harming another, having a minor in the motor vehicle, driving over the
speed limit, having a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit, and
Refusing to submit to chemical testing can result in driver's license
suspension. Federal law states that when an individual obtains a
driver's license he or she gives implied consent to submit to chemical
testing. If a test is refused, he or she will receive charges outside
of driving under the influence charges.
A first offense can earn up to eleven months in jail, a fine as high as
fifteen hundred dollars, one year of driver's license suspension, an
ignition interlock device, litter patrol, and alcohol treatment program
attendance. A second offense can earn up to one year in jail, two years
of driver's license suspension, and up to thirty-five hundred dollars
Individuals may also have their motor vehicles seized and be required
to attend drug and alcohol treatment assessment. Third offenses
increase fines up to ten thousand dollars and suspension up to ten
years. A felony offense under drunken driving can earn up to fifteen
thousand dollars in fines, driver's license suspension between five
years and expulsion, and incarceration in a state prison for a maximum
Class E Felony offense.