DUI First Offense in Tennessee: Does A Clean Record Help?

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

Barnes & Fersten Law Firm

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If you’re facing your first DUI charge in Tennessee and have never had an encounter with law enforcement before, you might be feeling especially anxious about what lies ahead. The consequences of a DUI conviction in Tennessee are severe and can have long-lasting effects on your life. In this blog, we’ll explore whether having a clean criminal record can impact the outcome of your case and discuss the ways an experienced DUI attorney can help you work towards a favorable outcome.

DUI First Offense Punishments in Tennessee

In Tennessee, even first-time DUI offenders face harsh punishments. If you’re convicted of a first offense DUI, the potential punishments include:

  • Minimum of 48 hours in jail (credit given for time served during arrest)
  • Maximum of 11 months and 29 days in jail or on probation
  • License revocation for one year
  • Fines ranging from $350 to $1,500
  • Court costs
  • Mandatory DUI School (12-hour state-approved DUI education class)

Enhanced DUI Penalties for Specific Circumstances

In certain cases, the mandatory minimum jail time for a first-time DUI offense can be increased:

  • BAC Above .20: When a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is significantly above the legal limit of .08, the risks associated with impaired driving are substantially higher. In these cases, Tennessee law mandates that the minimum jail sentence be increased to seven days to emphasize the severity of the offense and the increased danger it presents to public safety.
  • Child in the vehicle: If a child is present in the vehicle at the time of the DUI offense, the court views this as a serious aggravating factor that warrants a more severe punishment. To reflect the increased risk to the child’s safety, the minimum jail sentence is increased by 30 days, totaling 32 days in the county jail.

It’s important to note that other factors, such as your criminal history, may impact the State’s offer and potentially increase the jail time beyond the mandatory minimum. Additionally, the presence of other aggravating factors, such as causing property damage or injury, may also result in enhanced penalties.

The Impact of Having No Prior Criminal History on a DUI Charge

A clean criminal record can be an advantage when facing a first-time DUI charge. When you have no prior criminal history, it can positively impact the way the court and the prosecution view your case, potentially leading to more favorable outcomes. However, it’s essential to remember that each case is unique, and outcomes depend on the specific facts of your situation.

The prosecutor’s discretion often plays a significant role in these cases. When a defendant stands before the court without a previous criminal record, there’s a greater chance that both the court and the prosecutor might entertain alternative resolutions or even extend leniency. This consideration could potentially manifest as a reduction in charges or penalties. For instance, the prosecutor might propose a plea bargain to a lesser charge like reckless driving or suggest a sentence that is less severe.

Furthermore, the court might regard the lack of a prior criminal history as a mitigating circumstance during sentencing. Beyond this, other mitigating factors could also help your case. Demonstrating remorse, voluntarily enrolling in a substance abuse treatment program, or taking responsibility for your actions can present you in a favorable light. Highlighting these aspects to the court could illustrate your commitment to rectifying your mistake and might sway the judge to consider a lighter sentence.

While having no prior criminal history may be beneficial, it is not a guarantee that your charges or penalties will be reduced. The most effective way to ensure the best possible outcome is to work with an experienced DUI attorney who can evaluate your case, negotiate with the prosecution, and advocate on your behalf.

How Barnes & Fersten’s DUI Attorneys Can Help

At Barnes & Fersten, our priority is to help our clients avoid a DUI conviction and the associated mandatory jail time and license revocation. Our attorneys work tirelessly to negotiate with prosecutors, aiming to reduce the charge to an offense without mandatory minimum jail sentences and loss of license, such as reckless driving or reckless endangerment. We also strive to obtain dismissals through hearings and motion hearings when possible.


In cases where a DUI conviction cannot be avoided due to the facts and circumstances, our attorneys will do everything in their power to minimize your risk. This may include reducing your mandatory jail time below the minimum or negotiating a reduction from a higher DUI charge to a lower one with less severe mandatory jail time.

Take Control of Your Future – Contact Barnes & Fersten Today

Facing a DUI first offense in Tennessee is a serious matter. Don’t leave your future to chance–contact the experienced DUI attorneys at Barnes & Fersten to discuss your case and explore your legal options. Our dedicated team will guide you through the process, working diligently to protect your rights and achieve a favorable outcome for your case. Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you navigate this challenging time.

Attorney At Law, Managing Partner

Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUIcriminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.