Tennessee Alcohol Laws: Wise to Learn Them

Tennessee alcohol laws apply to both residents and visitors. Alcohol laws vary from state to state. Even within a state. Tennessee has many dry counties. Not knowing the state’s laws is no protection from jail.

I. Alcohol Minimum Ages

          Overview

I.   Alcohol Minimum Ages
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice

Many states permit parents to serve their children alcohol in their home for cultural or educational reasons. Most permit consumption of alcohol for religious, medical, or other reasons. Tennessee alcohol laws do not.

People under 21 may not consume wine for religious purposes. So communion wine or wine with Seder is prohibited.

tennessee alcohol lawsThe  Tennessee Legislature has zero tolerance for drinking under 21. It also seems to have little tolerance for freedom of religion. Even that granted by the US Constitution.

Many young people want part-time jobs. Hospitality offers many. Some involve alcohol. Youths want to know about required ages. What’s the age for serving alcohol in a restaurant? For selling alcohol to be consumed off-site? What about for tending bar?

Tennessee alcohol laws permit adults to be servers in venues that sell alcohol to be consumed on-site. That is, those 18 or older may do this job.

They permit adults of the same age to be bartenders. And they permit adults 18 or older to sell alcohol in venues for off-premises consumption.

The use of a false ID to buy alcohol is a criminal offense.

It is illegal for those under age 21 to drive if they have a BAC over 0.02.

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

Grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations may sell beer. They may do so from 8:00 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day of the week. They may also sell wine, except on Sundays.

Liquor or package stores may sell beer, wine and distilled spirits. Spirits are vodka, gin, tequila, rum bourbon, scotch, etc. They may do so from 8:00 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. They must close on Sundays.

tennessee alcohol lawsRestaurants and bars may serve alcohol by the drink from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. On Sundays they may sell from 10 a.m. until 3 a.m.

It’s illegal to sell alcoholic beverages on January First, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25th.

By default, all counties and municipalities in the state are dry. They must pass laws in order to permit the sale of alcohol.

Dry Counties

Fourteen counties in Tennessee are dry. They prohibit all sales of wine and spirits. These are the dry counties.

tennessee alcohol laws

A camel: symbol of prohibition.

Crockett
Fentress
Hancock
Houston
Johnson
Lake
Macon
McNairy
Meigs
Morgan
Pickett
Rhea
Stewart
Union

Tennessee alcohol laws strictly prohibit selling alcohol to anyone under 21. An offending clerk or server faces driving license suspension for up to one year. And community service of up to 100 hours. In addition, there’s a probation of one year and a permanent criminal record. For the alcohol license owner, the penalties are much greater.

It’s also to sell any alcoholic beverage to anyone who is visibly drunk.

Buying Alcohol

It’s a violation of Tennessee alcohol laws for anyone under age 21 to buy alcohol. It’s also illegal them to try to buy alcohol. Adults age 18, 19, or twenty who use a false ID receive a fine of $50 to $200. The judge may suspend their license for up to one year and imprison them for five to 30 days.

Illegal possession of alcohol by anyone under age 21 is penalized. The offender’s license is suspended for one year or until age 17, whichever is longer. For a second offense, the license suspension is for two years or until the offender is 18, whichever is longer.

Buying alcohol for a person under 21 is illegal. A first offense is punished with a fine of $25 to $500 and community service of 100 hours. The offender also faces possible driving license suspension. And it’s illegal to let anyone under 21 drink on one’s property.

Driving and Alcohol

tennessee alcohol lawsIt’s illegal to drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% violates Tennessee alcohol laws. For drivers under 21, DUI is 0.02 or over.

The exact penalties imposed depend on the circumstances of the case and the judge who decides it.

First DUI
  • Imprisonment for 48 hours to 11 months, 29 days. For a BAC of 0.20, the minimum imprisonment is seven days in a row.
  • License revocation for one year. (Restricted license available.)
  • Required participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program.
  • Payment of restitution to anyone suffering personal injury or loss
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) installation on vehicle required after reinstatement of license at offender’s expense.
Second DUI
  • tennessee alcohol lawsImprisonment for 45 days to 11 months, 29 days.
  • Fine of $600 to $3,500.
  • License revocation for two years. (Restricted License available.)
  • Required participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program.
  • Payment of restitution to anyone suffering personal injury or loss.
  • Vehicle subject seizure/forfeiture at judge’s discretion.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed on vehicle at offender’s expense.
  • If two DUIs in five years, IID required for six months after reinstatement of license at offender’s expense.
Third DUI
  • tennessee alcohol lawsImprisonment for 120 days to 11 months, 29 days.
  • Fine of $1,100 to $10,000.
  • License revocation for six years. (Restricted License available.)
  • Required participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program.
  • Vehicle subject to seizure/forfeiture at judge’s discretion.
  • Ignition interlock device installed on vehicle at offender’s expense.
  • If two DUIs in five years, IID required for six months after reinstatement of license at offender’s expense.
Fourth DUI
tennessee alcohol laws

Ignition Interlock Device

  • A fourth DUI is a crime (class E felony).
  • Imprisonment for one year with at least 150 days served in a row.
  • Fine of $3,000 to $15,000.
  • License revocation for eight years. (available.)
  • Required participation in an alcohol and drug treatment program.
  • Vehicle subject to seizure/forfeiture at judge’s discretion.
  • Ignition interlock device (IID) installed on vehicle at offender’s expense.
  • If two DUIs in five years, IID required for six months after reinstatement of license at offender’s expense.

Other DUI Violations

tennessee alcohol lawsVehicular assault occurs when a DUI driver causes serious injury to another person. It’s a criminal act (class D felony). Imprisonment is for two to 12 years. License revocation is from one to Five years. The length depends on the number of prior offenses. There is no availability of a restricted driving license. The offender must pay fines and court costs.

Child endangerment occurs with a DUI when a passenger is under 18. This is also a criminal act (class D felony). If the child suffers serious injuries, imprisonment is from two to 12 years. If the child dies, the imprisonment is for eight to 30 years. The state revokes the offender’s license.

Vehicular homicide occurs if a DUI causes the death of another. This is a serious criminal act (class B felony). The license revocation is for three to ten years. No restricted license is available.

Driver Rights

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline submitting to a chemical BAC test. However, the state punishes those who use their right. The first time a driver uses the right, there’s a license revocation of one year. If the driver uses the right on a second occasion, the revocation is for two years.

tennessee alcohol lawsHowever, there are no legal penalties for not submitting to a field sobriety test. These are notoriously subjective and highly inaccurate. Indeed, about one-third of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one of every three people with a zero BAC (0.00) fail them.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers never to take a field sobriety test. They say to politely refuse. And to do so as many times as needed. Some officers falsely insist that the law requires it. In fact, no law requires it. They may say you can prove your innocence by taking the test. But officers don’t consider passing the test as proof of sobriety.

Learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

Other Things to Remember

Although drivers may not drink in a vehicle, the state of Tennessee alcohol laws permit passengers to do so. However, many counties and municipalities may prohibit it.

DUI typically causes many expenses. They include towing, bail, lawyer fees, court costs, license reinstatement fees, and many others. The total easily reaches thousands of dollars.

A good rule of thumb is not to drink and drive.

Boating and Alcohol

tennessee alcohol lawsUnder Tennessee alcohol laws, it’s illegal operate a boat under the influence (BUI) of alcohol and/or drugs.

Having a BAC of 0.08% is proof of being under the influence.

First BUI
  • Fine of up to $2,500.
  • Imprisonment of up to 11 months and 29 days.
  • Suspension of boating license for one to ten years.
Second BUI
  • Fine of up to $2,500.
  • Imprisonment of up to 11 months and 29 days.
  • Suspension of boating license for one to ten years.
Third BUI
  • Fine of up to $5,000.
  • Imprisonment of up to 11 months and 29 days.
  • Suspension of boating license for one to ten years.

Other Facts

Use of the right to decline submitting to a chemical BAC test results in an additional boating license suspension.

Blood is taken for BAC testing from all boat operators if an accident results in serious injury or death.

III. Resources on Tennessee  Alcohol Laws

IV. Seek Good Advice and Information

Law is complex. Lawyers spend years learning it. It is not a case of do it yourself. Do not rely on this site. Be warned. Friends may give advice. Co-workers may give opinions. Family may give views. Neighbors may give experience. Smile and thank them. Then ignore what they say. Unless they’re lawyers.

tennessee alcohol lawsGet information and advice about Tennessee’s alcohol laws from a lawyer license in the state. The state bar gives free lawyer referrals.