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:

Featured Posts

April 12, 2024

New DUI Law Alert–Work Release Requirement Update

The Tennessee Legislature passed several new laws that became effective on January 1, 2024.  One DUI related law involves the Tennessee Work Release Program.  Work release is a form of probation that may be used, in certain circumstances, after a person has […]

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April 08, 2024

Reinstating Your Tennessee Driver’s License

If the Tennessee Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security has suspended or revoked your driver’s license, you are not allowed to drive again until you have obtained a valid driver’s license. This means that you cannot reuse your old driver’s […]

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Tennesee Sobriety Checkpoints
March 27, 2024

Tennessee Highway Patrol Traffic Enforcement and Sobriety Checkpoints

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has planned several Sobriety Checkpoints (also commonly referred to as a “DUI Roadblocks”) throughout this spring in East Tennessee.  Motorists in Campbell County can expect a DUI Roadblock on March 29, 2024 on State Route 116 at […]

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