Tennessee DUI Definition

Tennessee DUI law prohibits any person from driving or being in “physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the state” OR “on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex, or any other premises that is generally frequented by the public at large” while “under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system or combination thereof that impairs the driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of himself which he would otherwise possess” or while “the alcohol concentration in the person's blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (.08 %) or more.”  [Source: T.C.A. § 55-10-401]


Because of the length and complexity of Tennessee’s DUI statute, it is helpful to outline the statute by its elements, or the components that a state prosecutor must prove to obtain a guilty verdict. We have outlined these elements for you below. 


Tennessee DUI Elements

Before a person may be found guilty of Driving Under the Influence in Tennessee, the State must prove that he or she:


  • Was Driving OR in was in Physical Control;
  • Of an Automobile OR a Motor-Driven Vehicle;
  • While the automobile or motor-driven vehicle is on one of the following:
  • Any public road or highway of the State of Tennessee,
  • Any street or alley,
  • The premises of a shopping center, trailer park, or apartment complex, or
  • Any other premises generally frequented by the public at large;
  • While under the influence of any of the following:
    • An intoxicant,
    • Marijuana,
    • Drug,
    • Substance affecting the central nervous system, or
    • A combination of the above that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operating a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of himself which he would otherwise possess, or
    • With a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more.


The portions set apart in bold often cause the most confusion for people unfamiliar with Tennessee DUI laws.  For example, a person may be charged with DUI even if he or she is:

  • Found asleep in a parked car with the engine turned off,
  • Does not drive on a road, and/or
  • Never consumes an ounce of alcohol. 



Tennessee DUI Blog Posts

The following DUI blog posts may provide further insight into DUI laws in Tennessee: