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Underage DUI in Tennessee

Tennessee, like all states, carries a “zero tolerance” law targeted at young drivers under the legal drinking age of twenty-one. The law penalizes persons under twenty-one for driving with even a negligible amount of alcohol in their system (0.02% or greater). The offense is a Class A misdemeanor and a first time offender will have his/her license suspended for one year and will be fined $250.

A minor between sixteen and eighteen who is found to have consumed alcohol or drugs and has a BAC of 0.02% or greater is guilty of committing a delinquent act and will have his/her license suspended for one year and will be fined $250.

If you are under the age of twenty-one and are arrested for a DUI with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you will face the same fines and penalties as an individual twenty-one or older would face for the same offense. The only exception is that you will serve twenty-four hours in jail for your first offense, as opposed to the minimum forty-eight hour jail sentence required by law for individuals over twenty-one. You will also be required to show proof of financial responsibility (Tennessee SR22 insurance policy) before the Department of Safety will reinstate your license. The following is the Tennessee statute that relates to underage DUI’s:

T. C. A. § 55-10-415

§ 55-10-415. Driving while impaired by persons between age sixteen and twenty-one

 (a)(1) A person age sixteen (16) or over but under age twenty-one (21) may not drive or be in physical control of an automobile or other motor driven vehicle while:

(A) The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood is more than two hundredths of one percent (0.02%);

(B) Under the influence of alcohol;

(C) Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system; or

(D) Under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug set out in subdivision (a)(1)(C) to a degree that makes the person’s driving ability impaired.

(2) For purposes of this section, “drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system” has the same meaning and includes the same items set out in former § 55-10-401(b).

(b) The fact that any person who drives while under the influence of narcotic drugs or barbital drugs is or has been entitled to use the drugs under the laws of this state does not constitute a defense to the violation of this section.

(c) This section establishes the offense of underage driving while impaired for any person age sixteen (16) or over but under age twenty-one (21). The offense of underage driving while impaired is a lesser included offense of driving while intoxicated.

(d)(1) The offense of underage driving while impaired for a person age eighteen (18) or over but under age twenty-one (21) is a Class A misdemeanor punishable only by a driver license suspension of one (1) year and by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250). As additional punishment, the court may impose public service work.

(2) The delinquent act of underage driving while impaired for a person age sixteen (16) or over but under the age of eighteen (18) is punishable only by a driver license suspension of one (1) year and by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250). As additional punishment, the court may impose public service work.

(e) A person age sixteen (16) or over but under the age of eighteen (18) who commits the offense of underage driving while impaired commits a delinquent act.


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