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Tennessee Alcohol Laws

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Private retailers rather than state stores sell hard liquor and wine in Tennessee, with beer available in convenience marts and grocery stores. Local ordinances apply, but typically alcohol is only available for sale from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Beer is often sold after noon on Sundays, but again, local laws differ by county.

Legal Age for Drinking/Serving Alcohol

You must be 21 to consume alcohol, but in employment situations that involve serving or selling alcohol, a person may be 18 years of age.

Open Container Laws

Tennessee allows passengers in a vehicle to consume alcohol, but it is not legal for the driver to do so.

BAC Limits

‘Per se intoxication’ means a driver has chemical test results for alcoholic consumption of .08 percent or more BAC (blood-alcohol content). The state needs no further evidence than this to convict a driver of DUI.

If a driver is convicted of DUI with a BAC that is .20 percent or more above the legal .08 percent limit, that driver faces substantially harsher penalties.

Underage drivers are discouraged from drinking and driving by ‘zero tolerance laws.’ Any driver under the age of 21 with a BAC that is .02 percent or higher face DUI penalties.


The laws that require drivers to cooperate with breath, blood, or urine testing if a police officer suspects intoxication are known as ‘implied consent laws.’ Refusing to be tested incurs up to one year’s driving license suspension.

Penalties involving suspension of a driver’s license are carried out by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). In Tennessee, the first DUI offense carries mandatory license suspension of one year. Upon the second offense the driver loses driving privileges for two years, for the third offense, three years.

A driver’s vehicle can be confiscated upon a second DUI conviction, either permanently or temporarily. It can involve significant expense for the offender in the form of fines and administrative fees.

Free Online DUI Case EvaluationThe courts can order that an ignition interlock device be attached to the convicted DUI offender’s vehicle at the driver’s expense. This instrument requires the driver to perform a breath-test before the vehicle will start.

In certain circumstances, mandatory alcohol education, treatment, or assessment for alcohol abuse can be required for DUI offenders.