In Tennessee, DUI is defined as “Driving Under the Influence” and is not limited solely to alcohol.  Specifically, the law states:

“It is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the state, any shopping center, trailer park, apartment house complex or any other location which is generally frequented by the public at large, while:

  • Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, 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;
  • The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (0.08%) or more; or
  • With a blood alcohol concentration of four-hundredths of one percent (0.04%) and the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle as defined at § 55-10-102.”

*T.C.A. 55-10-401

Important Points to Note:

  • The law does not state that the person must be driving. The law states that the person must have been operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle.
  • The vehicle does not have to be on a road – the law is written to include places you may not have considered, even parking lots.
  • The law stipulates that 0.08% and above is the level at which the law presumes that you are intoxicated. Anything that meets or exceeds this number is considered “per se” intoxication.
  • The law does not limit the offense to only intoxication by alcohol. It includes any other substance which is considered to have impaired the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  This includes even medications which were prescribed by a physician.
  • There are lower limits for individuals who are driving a commercial motor vehicle, and for individuals under the age of 21.

Driving and Drugs

An individual may be charged with DUI for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug.  This includes prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs.  This includes anything that an officer feels has affected your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

This means that you could be charged with a DUI even if you are taking a prescription medication in the manner in which it was prescribed by a physician.  In addition, there may be a combination of alcohol and drugs involved in a DUI arrest.