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What is a DUI and a DWI in Tennessee?

DUIs in Tennessee are road traffic offenses that involve the use of alcohol or other intoxicating substances. DWIs are much the same in that they are also traffic offenses that involve a vehicle’s operation while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicating substances. In Tennessee, the courts and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security manage and penalize road traffic offenses.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Tennessee?

According to Tennessee state laws, a DUI refers to driving or being in physical control of a vehicle or any automobile on a public road while under the influence of intoxicating substances. These substances can include marijuana, controlled substances, drugs, intoxicants, or any substance that affects the driver’s central nervous system and diminishes their ability to drive. Additionally, a person commits a DUI when the person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or greater while driving. DUIs apply to adults under Tennessee law, that is, persons aged 21 and above.

Driving while impaired (DWI) applies to persons aged between 16 and 20.

A person is guilty of a DWI if the blood alcohol concentration is 0.02% or greater while driving or controlling a vehicle. Additionally, if the person drives or physically controls a vehicle or automobile while under the influence of any intoxicating or controlled substances, they are guilty of a DWI. The significant difference between a DUI and a DWI is that DUI applies to adults in Tennessee, while DWI applies to persons aged 16 - 20.

What Happens When You get a DUI for the First Time in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, a first DUI offense is a Class A misdemeanor (TN Code § 55–10–401). The expected penalties for a first DUI offense include:

  • No less than 48 hours and no more than 11 months and 29 days in county jail
  • Fines of no less than $350 and no more than $1500
  • License revocation for up to one (1) year
  • Participation in an alcohol or drug treatment program
  • The court-ordered installation of an ignition interlock device at the offender’s expense
  • Restitution to any victims resulting from the DUI

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Tennessee?

Jail time is very likely after a first DUI in Tennessee. As provided by state statutes, a first DUI offense in Tennessee is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. However, the minimum jail time after a first DUI offense is 48 hours. If the person’s blood alcohol concentration is.20% or greater, the minimum jail time is seven (7) days.

What are the Typical Penalties for a DUI Conviction in Tennessee?

Like most other states, Tennessee’s DUI penalties largely depend on the severity of the crime and whether it is a repeat offense. Typical penalties include:

  • Fines: DUI fines in Tennessee range from $350 for a first offense to up to $50,000 for aggravated vehicular assault, a Class A felony.
  • Imprisonment: Persons convicted of DUI offenses in Tennessee serve a minimum of 48-hour terms of imprisonment. Depending on the factors and the offender’s criminal history, a DUI offender may serve up to two (2) years or even 60 years in prison.
  • License revocation: The Department of Safety and Homeland Security may revoke a DUI offender’s license for up to 10 years, depending on the offense’s severity. In some cases, the offender may not be eligible for restricted licenses. The offender is responsible for paying reinstatement fees.
  • Alcohol and drug treatment program: The court may order an alcohol and drug treatment program at the offender’s expense.
  • Restitution: If the DUI offense involved bodily harm to another party, the court in Tennessee might require the offender pays restitution to the victim.
  • Ignition interlock device: As part of the offender’s sentence, the court may require the offender to install an interlock device.
  • Forfeiture or seizure: Depending on the offender’s criminal history and the nature of the DUI offense, a person convicted of a DUI offense in Tennessee may forfeit the person’s vehicle.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, DUI offenses stay on the offender’s record for life. If the court charges the offender with another DUI offense within ten years, the court will consider them a repeat offender. Additionally, DUI offenses are not eligible for expungement in Tennessee.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Tennessee?

DUI checkpoints are legal in Tennessee. The state government considers these checkpoints as security measures for drivers in the state. Law enforcement officers detain drivers suspected of driving under the influence to conduct some tests and ask a few questions. State laws do not require road users to drive through DUI checkpoints; road users may legally turn around to avoid checkpoints as long as such persons do not violate any traffic laws in the process. Interested persons may find a list of checkpoints on the Tennessee Department of Homeland and Security website.

Which is Worse; a DUI or DWI?

A DUI refers to the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances. In Tennessee, DUI typically applies to adults, that is, persons aged 21 and above. DWI in The offense of Driving While Impaired applies to persons between ages 16 and 20. While a DUI is punishable by imprisonment in addition to fines, forfeiture, and license revocation, state laws do not penalize DWI offenses with jail terms.

What is an Aggravated DWI in Tennessee?

State laws do not provide for aggravated DWI offenses; however, some factors may aggravate DUI cases. Aggravated DUI offenses attract harsher penalties than misdemeanor DUIs or first DUI offenses. Such aggravating factors include:

  • Repeated offenses: fourth DUI and subsequent DUI offenses are Class E felony crimes, punishable by one (1) year jail term, fines of between $3,000 and $15,000, license revocation for up to 8 years, forfeiture, alcohol treatment programs, and grid interlock installation at the offender’s expense.
  • Vehicular assault: When a person causes serious injury to another person by driving under the influence of alcohol. Vehicular assault is a Class D felony.
  • Child endangerment: When a person commits a DUI with a passenger who is less than 18 years old. Child endangerment is a Class D felony.
  • Vehicular homicide: When a person causes a fatal crash by committing a DUI or driving with a blood alcohol level of.08% or greater.
  • Aggravated vehicular assault: if a person with a prior vehicular assault conviction, two or more prior DUI convictions, the person is guilty of aggravated vehicular assault. Additionally, if a person with one prior DUI offense or Vehicular Assault offense commits vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol level of.20%, the person is guilty of aggravated vehicular assault, a Class A felony.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, driving while impaired (DWI) is a Class A misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by a fine of up to $250, driver’s license revocation for up to one (1) year, and community service as the court sees fit. DWI applies to offenders between ages 16 and 20 and is not punishable by imprisonment terms. It is important to note that penalties only apply if the court finds an accused person guilty of traffic offenses.

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