What Is the Minimum Sentence for A DUI In Tennessee?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Tennessee, even if it’s a first offense, you are surely wondering what kind of penalties you can expect — will it be just a slap on the wrist or something more serious?

From fines to license suspension to possible jail time, you’ll want to understand what you may face. Let’s dig into the minimum sentence for a DUI conviction, and how a Nashville, Tennessee DUI lawyer can help you achieve the best outcome with your case.

Tennessee BAC Limits

Tennessee takes drunk driving seriously. The legal BAC limit for drivers over 21 is .08%. At this level, you are considered impaired and can be convicted of a DUI. For underage drivers, there is a zero-tolerance policy. Any detectable alcohol in your system (.02% BAC or higher) is grounds for a DUI if you are under 21.

Aggravated DUI charges apply at very high BAC levels. If your test shows .20% BAC or above, you’ll face enhanced penalties. For teen drivers specifically (ages 16-20), even one underage drunk driving offense means automatic license suspension for one year, a $250 fine, and potential community service requirements.

Jail Time Penalties in Tennessee

When convicted of a DUI in Tennessee, you will face mandatory jail time that increases with each offense. For a first DUI conviction, the sentence is 11 months and 29 days, with a minimum of 48 hours in jail. The judge does have the discretion to suspend the remainder of the sentence if certain conditions are met.

A second DUI conviction also carries an 11/29 sentence but has a minimum mandatory jail time of 45 days that cannot be suspended. For a third DUI, the 11/29 sentence requires at least 120 days of jail time. A fourth DUI conviction is a felony, punishable by 1-6 years in prison and a minimum of 150 days in jail.

If convicted of a fifth DUI or more, you face 2-12 years imprisonment on a felony charge. This also cannot be probated. The key takeaway is that each subsequent DUI conviction increases the required jail time that must be served. Extended incarceration of over one year in state prison is possible on a fourth or fifth offense.

driving above the BAC limit is illegal

For a 6th or subsequent DUI conviction, which is charged as a Class C felony in Tennessee, you face 3 to 15 years in prison due to state law. The court looks back over your history to calculate offenses. They can go back up to 10 years to your last conviction and then another ten years before that.

Financial and Other Penalties for DUIs

Penalties for a DUI in Tennessee increase with each offense. The fines you’ll face depend on prior convictions:

  • For a first DUI conviction, you’ll pay between $350 and $1,500 in fines and court costs. That’s in addition to:
    • Having your license suspended for one year
    • Attending an alcohol safety program
  • A second offense brings fines from $600 to $3,500 plus:
    • A 2-year license suspension
  • Three DUIs lead to fines ranging from $1,100 to $10,000 and:
    • Losing your license for six years
  • Four or more DUIs can result in fines from $3,000 to $15,000, along with:
    • An 8-year license suspension

The more DUIs you accumulate, the harsher the penalties. Fines, license suspensions, and the risk of jail time increase dramatically.

You may also need to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for one year after the suspension ends. This breathalyzer prevents you from starting the car if alcohol is detected on your breath. The costs of leasing and maintaining an IID can exceed $100 per month.

The financial and personal costs make it critical to avoid impaired driving. Call a taxi, use a rideshare app or designate a sober driver when you’ve had too much to drink. The consequences aren’t worth the risk.

Reach Out to An Experienced DUI Lawyer in Nashville

A DUI in Tennessee is a serious charge. Even a first-time offense can lead to license suspension, hefty fines, and potential jail time. More importantly, a DUI can wreak havoc on your insurance rates, relationships, and career prospects.

An attorney from Byron Pugh Legal brings extensive knowledge of Tennessee’s DUI laws and prosecution strategies. Our team will thoroughly investigate your arrest, checking for any police errors or violations of protocol.

To explore your options with an understanding ally, call us today at 615-857-3318.

Byron L. Pugh
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