When experience matters, don’t leave your future to chance.

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Photo of Professionals at JMG, PLLC

When experience matters, don’t leave your future to chance.

DUI in Tennessee: Is it a felony or misdemeanor?

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2023 | DUI |

When faced with drunk driving charges in Tennessee, the classification of your offense matters. You can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the prevailing facts and circumstances of your case.

A felony DUI is a more serious charge than a misdemeanor. If convicted, you risk severe consequences, including significant fines, a lengthy prison sentence, a permanent criminal record and potential damage to your reputation and future prospects. That is in addition to losing some civil rights, such as the right to bear arms.

On the other hand, a misdemeanor DUI, while still carrying significant penalties, may provide more opportunities for rehabilitation and a chance to move forward with your life. Here is what you need to know.

What determines the nature of your DUI offense?

For first-time offenders in Tennessee, a DUI typically constitutes a misdemeanor. While this offense carries serious penalties, such as fines, license suspension, mandatory DUI school, probation and potential jail time of up to 11 months and 29 days, it does not carry the long-lasting stigma that comes with a felony conviction.

A second DUI offense within ten years of the first conviction is still categorized as a Class A misdemeanor. Still, the penalties are significantly harsher, including increased fines, an extended license suspension, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device and jail time ranging from 45 days to 11 months and 29 days.

The real crossroads lies with a third or subsequent DUI conviction within ten years. In such cases, Tennessee considers the offense a Class E felony. Aggravating factors can also transform a misdemeanor DUI into a felony charge. Driving under the influence with a child passenger, causing an accident resulting in injury or death, driving with a revoked or suspended license or exhibiting an exceptionally high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can lead to felony charges even for first-time offenders.

Are you facing drunk driving charges?

Seeking legal guidance when facing DUI charges in Tennessee is crucial to ensuring your rights are protected and that you receive fair treatment under the law. 

Proper guidance can help you understand the complexities of the legal process, build a strong defense and explore possible alternatives to mitigate the consequences. It will also empower you to confidently navigate this challenging situation and achieve the best possible outcome.