Drunk Driving Laws in Tennessee in 2023: What Is Legal Blood Alcohol Level?

Drink and drive laws in Tennessee

Tennessee’s legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08% (80 mg alcohol per 100 mL of blood). Even if your BAC is less than 0.08%, you may be arrested if your driving capacity is impaired due to alcohol or other substances.

Commercial vehicle drivers are prohibited from driving with a 0.04% or higher BAC. At 0.02% BAC, drivers under the age of 21 are likewise deemed legally drunk. Infractions of this state statute will result in a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge. 

One to two standard alcoholic beverages are usually enough to achieve or exceed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%. However, because BAC changes depending on characteristics such as weight and gender, this figure should only be used as a rough approximation.

It is critical to recognize that this article aims to raise awareness about drunk driving and Tennessee’s impaired driving legislation. This website in no way supports drunk driving in any state or region.

In 2020, there were 1,217 fatal traffic accidents in Tennessee, according to NHTSA data. Drivers with BACs of 0.08% or above account for 27% of this figure.

You should avoid driving when intoxicated. If you need to travel after drinking, using an Uber, designated driver service, or a cab is far preferable.

Tennessee has DUI regulations in place to help reduce accidents caused by drunk driving. While patrolling the roadways, the state’s law enforcement is constantly working to combat impaired driving.

It is essential to adhere to drunk driving laws to avoid legal repercussions. If you must drive, you should test your blood alcohol level before getting behind the wheel. You can check your blood alcohol level using an alcohol breathalyzer.

We recommend checking the official website of Tennessee’s Highway Safety Office for further information about DUI driving restrictions.

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in Tennessee

Alcohol can impair judgment by delaying reaction times, impairing eyesight, decreasing reflexes, and affecting distance and speed perception.

These scenarios can happen even if you don’t appear or feel drunk. Alcohol intoxication symptoms might occur as soon as you have your first drink.

Alcohol enters the bloodstream within 30 minutes to 2 hours of consumption. Your respiration rate may slow down, making it difficult to think effectively.

Although the state’s legal BAC limit is 0.08%, remember that everyone reacts differently to alcohol.

The following factors may have an impact on your blood alcohol concentration:

  • weight,
  • gender,
  • anxiousness and tiredness levels
  • hunger,
  • level of alcohol consumption, and
  • taking prescription medicines.

Some folks may pass out after a few drinks. They may appear normal, yet their ability to drive may be compromised. As a result, before getting behind the wheel, you must check your blood alcohol content.

A BAC calculator and chart can help you figure out how much alcohol you can drink before driving. However, these strategies may not suit everyone because everyone reacts differently to alcohol. It is still advisable to use a certified alcohol breathalyzer to detect your BAC precisely.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in Tennessee

Blood alcohol values of 0.010% to 0.029% are unlikely to cause significant impairment. Individuals with this level of BAC appear to be sober. However, as BAC levels rise, symptoms of alcohol-related impairment become visible.

If a person has a BAC level of 0.08% or higher, as determined by a chemical test, they are considered to be driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

DUI rules differ from one state to the next. Assess your blood alcohol level before driving to avoid penalty.

DUI convictions can have severe legal and financial consequences. The following are the DUI punishments in Tennessee.

First DUI Offense in TN

First-time offenders of DUI in Tennessee may face the following penalties:

  • Jail Time: 48 hours up to 11 months, 29 days of imprisonment
  • Fines: At least $350 to $1,500
  • License Suspension: One (1) year of license revocation

Second DUI Offense in TN

Second-time DUI offenders may face the following punishment:

  • Jail Time: 45 days to 11 months, 29 days in prison
  • Fines: $600 to $3,500
  • License Suspension: Two (2) years of license suspension

Third DUI Offense in TN

Third-time DUI offenders are bound to face the following consequences of DUI:

  • Jail Time: 120 days to 11 months, 29 days of imprisonment
  • Fines: $1,100 to $10,000
  • License Suspension: Six (6) years of license suspension

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Offense in TN

A driver who gets a fourth DUI in Tennesee may receive the following punishment:

  • Jail Time: One year in prison with a minimum of 150 days served consecutively
  • Fines: $3,000 to $15,000
  • License Suspension: Eight years (8) years of license revocation

Restricted Licenses in Tennessee

Judges can give a temporary limited license during a DUI suspension to ease some of the hardship of license loss.

Generally, this license can only be used for business, school, or treatment travel. A restricted license may also involve using an ignition interlock device (IID).

Tennessee Implied Consent Law

All drivers lawfully apprehended for DUI in Tennessee must submit to a breath test under Tennessee’s “implied consent” legislation. A law enforcement officer may request a blood or breath test without a warrant, but only a breath test is required.

Refusal to submit a test may result in license revocation in the following periods:

  • First Offense: One (1) year
  • Second Offense: Two (2) years

Driver’s license revocation for two (2) years if the crash causes bodily harm and five (5) years if the collision results in death (Most Aggravated Drunk Driving Law).

When Can You Drink and Drive in Tennessee?

According to studies, gender is a significant factor influencing a person’s BAC level. Men and women have different BAC thresholds. A variety of factors affect blood alcohol content.

Men have much higher levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) than women. The ADH enzymes control the metabolism of alcohol. As a result, men absorb alcohol more quickly than women.

The following information will assist you in determining how much alcohol you can consume before driving in Tennessee.

Several factors other than gender influence a person’s blood alcohol concentration. Although research supports the information provided here, remember that because everyone reacts differently to alcohol, it may not be beneficial or suitable for everyone.

How Many Bottles of Beers Can You Drink and Drive in Tennessee?

Drink beer and drive in Tennessee

Looking at BAC charts shows that a lighter person has a higher BAC.

After consuming a 12-ounce (350 ml) beer, a 160-pound male (72 kilos) can have a BAC of 0.02%.

In comparison, a woman of the same weight who consumes the same amount of alcohol may have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.03%.

This contrast demonstrates how a person’s gender impacts how they process alcohol.

Given the above example, limiting your beer consumption to one to two bottles is preferable if you need to drive later.

How Many Glasses of Wine Can You Consume and Drive in Tennessee?

The ABV of a normal 5-ounce (142-milliliter) glass of wine is 12%.

As shown in the sample above, a 160-pound male can have a BAC of 0.02% after ingesting one glass of wine. A female of the same weight and alcohol consumption, on the other hand, could have a BAC of 0.03%.

When other factors such as stress, empty stomachs, and medication ingestion are considered, these BAC levels might rise even higher.

One to two glasses of wine are sufficient if you intend to drive after drinking.

How Much Whiskey or Vodka Can You Drink and Drive in Tennessee?

Distilled alcohols, such as vodka and whiskey, have an ABV of 40%.

A 160-pound male can have a BAC of 0.02% after drinking one shot of vodka or whiskey. A female with the same weight and alcohol consumption may have a BAC of 0.03%.

As previously stated, BAC levels can rise if other conditions are present.

If you must drive, limit yourself to one to two shots of whiskey or vodka.

Sticking to DUI Laws in Tennessee

Every driver should be aware of the dangers of drunk driving and take every precaution to avoid it. If intoxicated, you may lose control of yourself and your vehicle. 

Driving when high or intoxicated is dangerous. Hence, the best and safest strategy is to avoid drinking before driving.

Don’t be too sure of your BAC and driving ability, even if you’ve only had a few bottles or glasses of alcohol. Instead of driving, consider taking alternative modes of transportation.

If you wish to drive after drinking, make sure your ability to do so is not impaired. It is also advisable to use a reputable alcohol breathalyzer to determine your blood alcohol content.

We recommend reading the state’s official website to learn more about Tennessee’s DUI regulations.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.