DUI Insurance Laws for Tennessee

Drunk driving in TN is punishable by up to a year in jail, confiscation of your license and vehicle, and up to $15,000 in fines. You will also be required to carry SR-22 insurance for three years.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Jun 2, 2022

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Here's what you need to know

  • The victims of drunk drivers can suffer property losses, injuries, and even death
  • Drunk drivers face jail time, higher costs of car insurance, and the possible loss of driving privileges
  • Tennessee has specific laws concerning driving under the influence

Driving under the influence is a serious crime that can have long-term consequences for everyone involved.

Driving with a blood alcohol concentration level over the legal limit can not only come with a license suspension, fines, and jail time, it is also a danger to you and anyone else on the road.

States all across the nation have stiffened their drunk driving laws and with good reason.

Compare state car insurance by entering your ZIP code at the top of this page and see how your insurance provider stacks up against the other car insurance companies in your area.

Table of Contents

Drunk Driving Defined

Drunk driving is determined by the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver at the time of an incident.

The BAC represents the percentage indicating what actual proportion of a person’s blood is alcohol.

Research has shown that a BAC as low as .04 can seriously affect eye-hand coordination and decision-making processes in the brain.

In recent years, many states have lowered the BAC limit a driver must have to be considered legally impaired.

In Tennessee, if someone has a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher while operating a motor vehicle, they will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

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Implied Consent

In Tennessee, if a driver is driving a vehicle on a public road, the law states that he has given his implied consent to be tested for impairment.

Therefore, if a law enforcement officer observes driving behavior that he suspects is caused by alcohol impairment, he can pull the driver over and administer tests to determine the driver’s BAC.

Police officers may choose to administer a breath test for blood alcohol levels, a blood test, or a urine test.

Refusal to submit to this testing is sufficient grounds for being charged with a crime and could be grounds for the suspense or revocation of a person’s driver’s license.

Types of Offenses

Tennessee recognizes different levels of culpability when driving under the influence. A first-offense DUI can carry some strict penalties. Those penalties become harsher with each subsequent offense, eventually leading to a felony charge.

The severity of the crime is judged by the number of repeat offenses, the blood-alcohol level of the offender, and whether there were injuries, deaths, or property loss caused by the incident.

Offenders are divided into four categories.

Each category has its own definition and penalties:

  • First-Time DUI Offenses – Jail time from 48 hours to 11 months, 29 days, license revocation, mandatory participation in DUI school, and a $350 to $1,500 fine
  • Second-Time DUI Offenses – 45 days to 11 months, 29 days in jail, a mandatory fine of $600 to $3,500, driver’s vehicle may also be subject to seizure, and he will be ordered to attend DUI school
  • Third-Time DUI Offenses – 120 days to 11 months, 29 days of jail time, $1,100 to $10,000 in mandatory fines, and a three to 10-year loss of license, with no restricted license available
  • Fourth and Subsequent Offenses – Class E Felony punishable by a year in jail with a minimum of 150 of those days served consecutively, a $3,000 to $15,000 mandatory fine, as well as the permanent loss of his vehicle and the loss of his driver’s license for five years

Special Circumstances

Crimes involving certain special circumstances are treated differently than other DUI convictions.

These include:

  • Vehicular Assault – Class D Felony and can lead to license revocation of up to 5 years; face jail time ranging from two to 12 years, as well as fines and court costs
  • Child Endangerment – Class D Felony and carries the possible penalty of two to four years jail time. If a child involved dies, this offense becomes a Class C Felony and jail time increases to three to six years
  • Vehicular Homicide –Class B Felony and includes a fatality. The drunk driver’s license will be revoked for three to 10 years. No restricted license is available for those convicted of vehicular homicide

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Special Circumstances

Crimes involving certain special circumstances are treated differently than other DUI convictions.

These include:

  • Vehicular Assault – Class D Felony and can lead to license revocation of up to 5 years; face jail time ranging from two to 12 years, as well as fines and court costs
  • Child Endangerment – Class D Felony and carries the possible penalty of two to four years jail time. If a child involved dies, this offense becomes a Class C Felony and jail time increases to three to six years
  • Vehicular Homicide Class B Felony and includes a fatality. The drunk driver’s license will be revoked for three to 10 years. No restricted license is available for those convicted of vehicular homicide

New Laws

Tennessee passed a new law requiring people convicted of driving under the influence to have vehicle ignition interlock devices installed in their cars.

An ignition interlock is a device that is connected to a car’s ignition system that will not allow the car to start unless the driver’s blood alcohol levels are in the safe range.

The BAC level is measured by a breath-alcohol analyzer. If it detects unsafe levels of alcohol, it will prevent the car from starting.

Even first-time offenders may be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed and all drivers must pay the costs themselves.

The cost of having an ignition interlock device in a car for a single year can exceed $800.

Car Insurance Requirements in Tennessee

Special insurance is required by the state of Tennessee after a DUI conviction.

Called SR-22 insurance, this is a high-risk insurance filing and is required for the three years following a drunk driving conviction.

An insurance policy with an SR-22 can be very expensive. Car insurance companies know that drivers needing this coverage are a high-risk group and will charge more to cover their financial risk.

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Shopping for Car Insurance in Tennessee

Drivers with a past record of DUI would be well advised to comparison shop when looking for insurance.

The increase in premiums that insurance companies levy for DUI convictions vary wildly.

Comparison shopping is the only way to find the best car insurance deal.

While a drunk driving arrest can be financially painful as well as embarrassing, it is not the end of the world.

Compare auto rates by entering your ZIP code into the FREE tool at the bottom of this page!

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