DUI Charges

DUI charges can severely affect your life.  Have you been recently arrested and charged with drinking and driving in Tennessee? If so, you do not have to let a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) conviction or a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) conviction affect your criminal and driving record. In addition to the problems you with face with your records, you may also feel the effects of this poor choice in other aspects of your life, including problems with your job and your family. Your license may also be suspended in the wake of your DUI. You may even be required to attend treatment programs if you are convicted.

Under Tennessee’s DUI laws, it is illegal to operate your vehicle if your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher or if you are under the influence of drugs. If you are under the federal drinking age of 21, you must have a BAC that is less than 0.02%. If police pull you over in your vehicle and they believe that you are operating a motor vehicle with a BAC that is near the legal limit or if they believe that you may be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, you will most likely be reprimanded into police custody.

In Tennessee, driving while having a BAC over the legal limit may result in fines, driver’s license revocation, and/or jail time. DUI cases are generally prosecuted with more force than other misdemeanors, due to the risk of safety to other motor vehicles or pedestrians. It is important, if you have been arrested for a DUI, to talk to a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer in order to receive the best possible result for your case. Contact the law offices at Griffin & Davis, PLLC for a free consultation on your case.

Initial DUI Stop

In order to stop a driver who may be under the influence, police officers must have probable cause; this can mean an officer seeing a driver driving erratically or swerving if there are no weather conditions that would cause impaired driving. Additionally, if an officer sees an individual leaving a bar and looking visibly drunk before operating their vehicle, they may have cause to stop that driver.

Field Sobriety Test

If an officer suspects a driver of being under the influence of alcohol, they may ask the driver to take a field sobriety test to determine if they have been drinking. These are coordination tests that are used to determine whether a driver’s balance/mental processing has been influenced by alcohol. A field sobriety test can be refused by a driver, but an officer can still arrest someone they suspect has been driving under the influence even without the test. Even if an individual passes a field sobriety test, an officer can still decide to arrest them for a DUI.

Standard Tennessee field sobriety tests use a combination of three assessments: the Walk and Turn Test, the One-Leg Stand Test, the Horizontal Nystagmus Gaze Test, or an Alternate Test of the officer’s own determination.

The Walk and Turn Test

This test requires the driver to do tasks with divided attention. The suspect must take nine steps in a straight line, heel-to-toe. Following those nine steps, they must then turn on one foot and walk another nine steps in a straight line in the opposite direction. If the individual is unable to walk in a straight or count the correct number of steps, they may be found to be under the influence.

The One-Leg Stand Test

The suspect first stands with their feet together and arms at their sides. Then, they must raise one foot about six feet off the ground and count to thirty seconds. If the suspect puts their foot down multiple times, sways significantly, or hops, they may be impaired.

The Horizontal Nystagmus Test

When an individual looks to the side there is an involuntary jerk that occurs in the eye. Under the influence, this jerk is exaggerated significantly. Inability to follow moving objects smoothly or extreme eye jerking may cause an officer to believe someone has been driving under the influence.

Alternate Test

In Tennessee, a police officer may ask an individual they believe to be under the influence to perform other tests not standardized by the state. Examples of these may be asking someone to say the alphabet backward, put their finger to their nose, or count backward. If an officer utilizes these alternate, non-standardized tests, the arrest may have been done in error and, under the advice of a seasoned defense attorney, has a chance to be dismissed as a wrongful arrest.

Contact the lawyers at Griffin & Davis, PLLC to discuss your arrest and determine what the best plan of action will be to get the charges against you reduced to a lesser charged or dropped altogether. If you believe you may have faced an unofficial field sobriety test, we will help determine how to move forward with your case.

Blood-Alcohol Content Limit

In Tennessee, there is a blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit that determines when a driver is considered drunk. In the state of Tennessee, this is set at 0.08%, and if a driver’s BAC is over 0.20%, they can receive further severe penalties.

For those under the federal legal drinking age (under the age of 21), there is a zero-tolerance policy in Tennessee. This means that if an individual under 21 is driving and has a BAC of 0.02%, they may be convicted of a DUI. If someone under 21 has been found to be driving under the influence of alcohol, their license can be revoked and they may face mandatory community service hours and a possible fine.

After someone has been arrested for a DUI, they will be asked to take a breath, blood, or urine test, otherwise known as a chemical test, to determine their blood-alcohol levels. A driver can refuse to take a chemical test, but under Tennessee law, it is stated that if an individual has been arrested for a DUI, they are required to submit a blood-alcohol test.

Most criminal defense attorneys advise against refusing to take a chemical test, as the refusal of these tests can lead to serious consequences including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Loss of License – If you refuse a blood-alcohol test, you will have your license revoked, even if you have not been driving or if you do not have a blood-alcohol level of over 0.08%. For your first DUI, you will have a one-year suspension, and a second and third DUI will result in a two-year suspension.
  • Held Against You in Trial – If you are convicted of a DUI or vehicular assault and refused the blood test, you may be convicted up to a year and have your license revoked for one to five years.
  • Criminal Conviction – During a trial, the prosecution may use a blood-alcohol test to determine if the suspect has a blood-alcohol level over 0.08%. A criminal defense attorney may determine the testing equipment is defective and have the case tossed out. If an individual refuses to take a test, a jury may determine they have been driving under the influence due to that refusal.
  • Interlock Ignition Device – If a person is convicted of a DUI and had refused to take the blood-alcohol test, they will be required to install an Interlock Ignition Device (IID) to their vehicle. An IID is a breathalyzer for someone’s vehicle. It requires the driver to breathe into the device to determine their blood-alcohol level before starting the vehicle. If the blood-alcohol level is higher than 0.08%, the vehicle will not start.

Offenses and Penalties

The jail and fines faced by individuals who are facing DUI may vary under Tennessee law, especially if that person is facing a second or third DUI offense within 10 to 20 years.

First DUI Offense

  • 48 hours to 11 months, 29 days in jail.
    • A blood-alcohol content of 0.20% or higher will result in a minimum of 7 consecutive days in jail.
  • Fines ranging from $350 to $1,500.
  • Revocation of driver’s license for one year.
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol/drug treatment program or facility.
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device to your car.

Second DUI Offense

  • 45 days to 11 months, 29 days in jail.
  • Fines ranging from $600 to $3,500.
  • Revocation of driver’s license for two years.
  • Potential seizure of your vehicle.
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol/drug treatment program or facility.
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device to your car.

Third DUI Offense

  • 120 days to 11 months, 29 days in jail.
  • Fines ranging from $1,100-$10,000.
  • Revocation of driver’s license for six years.
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol/drug treatment program or facility.
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device to your car.

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Offenses

  • Considered a Class E Felony.
  • One year of jail time, with a minimum of 150 consecutive days in jail.
  • Fines ranging from $3,000-$15,000.
  • Revocation of driver’s license for eight years.
  • Seizure of your vehicle.
  • Mandatory participation in an alcohol/drug treatment program or facility.
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device to your car.

Vehicular Assault

  • Considered a Class D Felony.
    • Injury to another individual by a DUI driver.
  • Two to 12 years in jail.
  • Revocation of driver’s license for one to five years.
  • Fines and court costs, which vary by case severity.


If you’ve been arrested for a DUI in the state of Tennessee, it is important to speak with a lawyer to see what options are available to you. The lawyers at Griffin & Davis, PLLC have more than 40 years of combined criminal law experience assisting clients throughout Middle and Eastern Tennessee who have been charged with a DUI crime. We have more than seven attorneys who are employed by our firm and we are dedicated to making sure that all of our clients fully understand all of their options as we work to craft you strong plan for defense. Depending on how your arrest handled, you may be able to have a reduction the DUI charge to a lesser sentence or even have your case thrown out. For more advice on how to handle your DUI case, you can contact us at (931) 837-2050 or (865) 354-3333. Call us anytime to speak with an aggressive and knowledgeable lawyer about your DUI charges.