Tennessee BAC Restrictions and DUI Laws 2024

Drink and drive laws in Tennessee

In Tennessee, the maximum permissible blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is set at 0.08% (equivalent to 80 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood). However, it’s important to note that individuals can still face arrest for driving under the influence if their BAC is below this threshold but their ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or other substances.

What is the Legal Alcohol Limit for Driving in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, the legal alcohol limits for driving vary based on the driver’s license type and age. These regulations are in place to ensure the safety of all road users by setting strict blood alcohol concentration (BAC) thresholds. Here’s a breakdown of the legal limits across different categories of drivers:

  • Regular Drivers: The legal BAC limit is 0.08% for standard vehicle operators. This equates to 80 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood.
  • Commercial Drivers: For those holding a commercial driver’s license, the legal limit is more stringent at 0.04%, recognizing the higher responsibility associated with operating commercial vehicles.
  • Minors (Under 21): Tennessee law prohibits minors from driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, reflecting a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving.

Drink and Drive Penalties and Punishments in Tennessee

Tennessee takes a strict stance against driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, implementing severe penalties and punishments to deter such behavior. Understanding these consequences is crucial for all drivers within the state. It’s also important to regularly check the official state website for any updates or changes to these laws. Here’s an overview of the penalties and punishments related to DUI offenses in Tennessee:

Implied Consent and Refusal Penalties:

  • 1st offense: Revocation of driver’s license for 1 year for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test.
  • 2nd offense: License revocation for 2 years.
  • If a crash resulted in bodily injury: License revocation for 2 years under the Most Aggravated Drunk Driving Law.
  • If a crash resulted in a death: License revocation for 5 years under the Most Aggravated Drunk Driving Law.

DUI Offense Penalties:

  • 1st Time DUI Offender:
    • Jail time ranging from 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days.
    • Minimum 7 consecutive days jail time for .20 BAC or greater.
    • 1-year license revocation (restricted license available).
    • Mandatory participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program.
    • Fines between $350 and $1,500.
    • Additional costs could exceed $4,900, including fees for towing, bail, attorney, high risk insurance, and more.
    • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device at the offender’s expense, with costs potentially exceeding $1,000 for the first year.
  • 2nd Time DUI Offender:
    • Jail time from 45 days to 11 months and 29 days.
    • Fines between $600 and $3,500.
    • 2-year license revocation (restricted license available).
    • Possible vehicle seizure/forfeiture.
    • Mandatory alcohol and drug treatment program.
  • 3rd Time DUI Offender:
    • Jail time from 120 days to 11 months and 29 days.
    • Fines between $1,100 and $10,000.
    • 6-year license revocation (restricted license available).
  • 4th and Subsequent Offender:
    • Classified as a Class E Felony.
    • Mandatory jail time of 1 year, with a minimum of 150 consecutive days.
    • Fines between $3,000 and $15,000.
    • 8-year license revocation (restricted license available).

Other Related Offenses:

  • Vehicular Assault: License revocation from 1 to 5 years, with potential jail time of 2 to 12 years for causing serious injury by DUI.
  • Child Endangerment: License revocation for DUI with a passenger under 18, with jail time based on the severity of the child’s injury or death.
  • Vehicular Homicide: License revocation for 3-10 years for fatal crashes caused by DUI, classified as a Class B Felony.
  • Aggravated Vehicular Assault: Class A Felony for DUI with prior convictions or high BAC, leading to severe penalties.

Reinstatement Fees:

  • Fees vary based on the offense, including a $100 reinstatement fee, and additional fees for filing of financial responsibility (SR-22) or failure to surrender the driver’s license.

Penalties for Minors:

  • Specific penalties apply to minors for drug and alcohol-related offenses, including license suspensions and fines.

This summary highlights the significant financial and legal consequences of DUI offenses in Tennessee. Always strive for responsible driving, and remember to consult the official state website for the most current information on DUI laws and penalties.

Ways to Avoid Driving with a High BAC in Tennessee

Drink beer and drive in Tennessee

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense in Tennessee, with strict penalties for those found exceeding the legal BAC limits. To ensure your safety and that of others on the road, it’s vital to plan ahead and consider alternative transportation options if you’ve been drinking. Here are some practical recommendations to avoid driving with a high BAC:

  1. Utilize Ride-Sharing Apps or Local Taxi Services: Technology has made it easier than ever to find a ride within minutes, directly from your smartphone. Apps like Uber and Lyft offer a convenient and reliable way to get home safely without getting behind the wheel. For those who prefer traditional taxi services, local companies provide a valuable service. In Nashville-Davidson, consider using AJ Transportation Inc, and in Memphis, Bluff City Taxi is a trusted option. These services are readily available and can be a safer alternative to driving after consuming alcohol.
  2. Order a Designated Driver Service: If you’ve driven to a location and realize you’ve consumed too much alcohol to drive safely, but don’t want to leave your car behind, designated driver services offer a solution. These services provide a driver to take you and your car home safely. In Nashville-Davidson, Six In The City Private Car Service is an option, while Chauffeured of Memphis serves those in Memphis. To find a designated driver service near you, a quick online search for “designated driver service” along with your city’s name should provide several options.

These methods not only help in avoiding the risks associated with drunk driving but also ensure that you and your vehicle get home safely. Planning ahead and making the right choices can significantly reduce the likelihood of DUI offenses and contribute to safer roadways in Tennessee. Remember, no amount of convenience or cost-saving is worth the risk of driving under the influence. Always choose a safe and legal alternative to get home if you’ve been drinking.


Sticking to DUI Laws in Tennessee: Sad Statistics

In 2020, Tennessee saw 1,217 fatal traffic accidents, with 27% involving drivers with BACs of 0.08% or higher. To prevent such incidents, it’s crucial to avoid driving intoxicated. Opt for safer alternatives like Uber, designated driver services, or taxis instead.

Tennessee’s DUI laws aim to curb drunk driving, supported by vigilant law enforcement. Adherence to these laws is key to avoiding legal issues and ensuring safety. Before driving, consider measuring your BAC with a reliable breathalyzer.

Stay informed on DUI restrictions by visiting Tennessee’s Highway Safety Office website. Remember, driving under the influence poses serious risks. Choosing not to drink and drive is the safest decision. Always consider alternative transportation if you’ve been drinking, as even a small amount of alcohol can impair your ability to drive.

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.