DUI Defense


Driving under the influence, by law, is a misdemeanor in the state of Tennessee. However, DUIs are typically prosecuted with more force and swifter action than most misdemeanors. The crime is a serious offense that places all others on the road in danger. Here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions.  If you still have questions, contact us at (865) 546-1111 for your FREE consultation today!


Are you charged with a DUI? Here are some helpful answers to questions you may have.

Recognize that if you have been charged with a DUI, we strongly advise hiring an attorney to represent you in your coming case. To be fairly represented in an DUI case – no matter if it’s your first offense or if you’re a repeat offender – you need an experienced, trained lawyer who clearly understands the laws and the court system.

What's the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Tennessee?

Tennessee states that driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level over 0.08 percent is considered driving under the influence.

However, you may be subject to DUI penalties without going over the 0.08 percent BAC level when taking in other considerations of your offense. Each case is unique in the court of law.

What are the standard DUI field sobriety tests?

There are three standard field sobriety tests that officers in Tennessee and across the country use to help determine probable cause for drunk driving.

The three tests are the following:

1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

 The officer asks you to watch a finger or pen as it moves. You are asked to follow only with your eyes and not your head.

If you are unable to follow the motion or your eyes begin to twitch, you give an indication that you are intoxicated.

2. Walk-and-Turn Test

The officer instructs you to move forward nine steps in a straight line, touching heel-to-toe on each step. You must turn appropriately, then repeat the steps in the opposite direction.

Specifically, the officer is testing your ability to balance and follow instructions. With detailed guidelines paired with a focus on balance, intoxicated drivers may struggle to perform well.

3. One-Leg Stand Test

The officer instructs you to stand on one foot while lifting the other foot six inches off the ground. Then, you count to 30 out loud.

Here, the officer is testing your ability to balance and your endurance. If you lift your arms, put your foot down, or are unable to count to thirty (30), you show signs of intoxication.

Do you have to perform a field sobriety test?

No, you are not legally required to perform any field sobriety test in Tennessee. If you refuse to perform these tests, the officer questioning you may place you under arrest. Unsurprisingly, if you are being asked to take these tests, the officer is likely to arrest you following the tests anyway.

What happens on a first offense DUI?

If you are found guilty of or plead guilty to a first-offense DUI, you could face the following penalties under Tennessee law:

Mandatory minimum of forty-eight (48) hours in jail

  • 11 months, 29 days suspended sentence
  • 11 months, 29 days supervised probation
  • $350 fine, plus court costs
  • 24 hours of community service
  • Loss of driver’s license for one year
  • Alcohol safety school
  • Ignition interlock device installed if BAC >.20

Note that other factors regarding your specific arrest may factor into your penalties. For instance, if your first-offense DUI came as a result of a car wreck or if you injured a victim, you could receive harsher, more stringent penalties.

Will I have to go jail?

Yes, you do face a minimum of forty-eight (48) hours in jail if you are found guilty of or plead guilty to a DUI. It’s unavoidable.

If your BAC level was at or more than 0.20 percent, you could face seven (7) days in jail.

Can I refuse to take a BAC?

While you can refuse to take the test to determine your BAC, we highly recommend that you perform the test. Why? Your license will be revoked otherwise, and your refusal will be used against you in court.

Under Tennessee law, you are required to perform a BAC test once you are under arrest for a DUI. Since your arrest means that you displayed probable cause for driving under the influence, Tennessee’s implied consent law states that you consent to taking one of the BAC tests – blood, breath or urine. The officer must state that failure to comply with the test will result in getting your license revoked.

For a first-time offense, refusal to take a BAC test results in a one-year suspension of your license. However, the length of suspension can vary based on the details of the arrest. For a second-time offense, the license suspension is two years.


Simply put: if you are in this situation, take the BAC test.

Is my DUI on my permanent record?

Yes, if you are found guilty of or plead guilty to a DUI, the crime lives on your record for 10 years in the state of Tennessee. If you have prior DUI convictions, those are counted against you if you face another DUI offense.

What happens for an underage DUI?

The state of Tennessee is incredibly strict with underage drinking and driving. If you are under the age of 21 and are found to have a BAC level of 0.02 percent while driving, the officer can arrest you for a DUI.

 Yes, you may not be legally drunk under the normal BAC legal level, but you are underage, which is why the arrest is made despite a lower BAC level. For underage offenders in Tennessee, you receive the following penalties:

  • License revoked for one year
  • $250 fine
  • Community service
How do I get my driver’s license back after a DUI?

Once you have completed the duration of your penalties, you do not automatically get your driver’s license reinstated. You must go through the proper steps with the Tennessee Department of Safety.

Like many aspects of a DUI arrest, each case is unique and warrants its own timeline. However, the majority of DUI arrests involve the following steps to reinstate your license:

  • Enroll in and complete a drug and alcohol treatment program
  • Show proof of car insurance with an SR-22
  • Pay Tennessee Department of Safety fees
  • Provide driver’s license application fees
  • Pass driver’s license testing

Involvement is an DUI case is stressful, time-consuming, and life-altering. You do not want to tackle the case alone.

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