THE BARNES & Fersten 1st DUI Offense Attorneys

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Knoxville DUI First Offense Penalties and Defenses

You’ve been arrested for DUI? Now what?

A DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge is a serious matter in the state of Tennessee. If you’re facing your first DUI offense, it’s crucial to understand the penalties you could face and how a DUI defense lawyer can help protect your rights. At Barnes & Fersten one of the main focuses of our practice is understanding the law and science specific to defending DUI charges. DUI cases present unique issued not often found in other criminal defense cases, including blood and breath testing for blood alcohol concentration, the administration of standardized field sobriety tests, and the complex law surrounding giving or refusing to give a chemical test.

Penalties for 1st Offense DUI in Tennessee

Tennessee law takes a hard line on DUI offenses and carries some of the harshest penalties nationwide for a first-time offenders. Here’s a brief rundown of what you might face if you are convicted of DUI in Knoxville and the surrounding counties:

Mandatory Minimum Jail Time

Tennessee law requires a mandatory minimum of 48 hours in jail if you're convicted of a DUI 1st offense. This period can extend to 7 days if your blood alcohol content (BAC) was .20% or higher. Other aggravating factors, like having a child in the car or causing injury can increase jail time.

Fines and Court Costs

The fines for a DUI 1st offense range from a mandatory minimum of $350, up to $1,500 and the court costs that are added to these fines are often in the range of $500-$1,000.

License Suspension

If convicted, your driver's license will be revoked for one year. You'll need to complete a DUI education program, pay a reinstatement fee, and in most cases, install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for a year to regain your driving privileges.


If any person or property was harmed as a result of the DUI, you may also be required to pay restitution. Your car insurance can often cover some of these costs and only certain financial damages can be charge to restitution.


In addition to jail time, you may be placed on probation, which includes regular check-ins with a probation officer and adherence to certain rules.

Attorneys Brandon Fersten, John Barnes, Oscar Butler

How a DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you don’t have to face this difficult time alone. Our experienced DUI defense lawyers in Knoxville, TN can provide crucial assistance:

  • Understanding Your Charges: Our lawyers will help you understand the charges against you, possible defenses, and potential outcomes. We do this from the very first time you contact us. You will first get to speak with an attorney on the phone to help us understand the specific facts of your situation and so that any questions you may have can be answered.

Often that phone call will be followed by a meeting in our office, or virtually if it is more convenient for you so that we can begin strategizing your defense.

  • Building a Defense: We’ll investigate your case thoroughly, including ordering and reviewing any relevant police body camera footage, 911 calls, police reports, and speaking with anyone with relevant information to your defense. By reviewing the body camera we can determine the validity of the sobriety tests, scrutinize the police procedures, and work to build a strong defense strategy.

In addition to mounting a strong legal defense, we will get to know you and your unique personal circumstances. Often things like the effect a conviction would have on your job and family, your proactive steps in dealing with any underlying substance issues, and your previous criminal history or lack thereof, as well as your accomplishments will be important in reaching the best possible outcome in your case.

  • Negotiating Plea Deals: If appropriate, our lawyers can negotiate with the prosecution to reduce your charges or the penalties you face. We believe it is our job to seek out the best possible options for you. This means that we will work to get the most favorable resolution, whether that be a dismissal or reduction in charges and work with you to decide whether your case is best resolved by a plea agreement or by having hearings and a trial in court.
  • Representing You in Court: You will likely have several court dates which serve different purposes. These include an arraignment, “status” dates where we negotiate with the prosecutor and gather necessary evidence, pretrial hearings regarding legal issues, and ultimately, in some cases, a trial. We will be with you every step of the way and make sure that you are informed as to what will happen in court and the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
  • Assisting with License Reinstatement: Should your drivers license be affected by the charge, we will help you navigate the sometimes difficult and potentially frustrating process of dealing with the Department of Safety to reinstate your driving privileges.

Schedule Your Free Consultation

Contact Our DUI Defense Lawyers Today

If you’ve been charged with a DUI 1st offense in Knox, Blount, Sevier, Anderson, Roane, Loudon, Jefferson or Union County, don’t delay in seeking legal help. At Barnes & Fersten our Knoxville DUI defense lawyers are committed to protecting your rights and helping you navigate this challenging situation. Contact us today at (865) 805-5703 for a free consultation.

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