Vehicle Forfeiture for Tennessee DUI

The state of Tennessee penalizes offenders for driving white intoxicated (DWI) quite harshly. First time offenders can spend up to 11 months in jail and their license will be revoked for at least a year. The number of Tennessee DWI fatalities on average is around 1,100 people each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The implied consent laws in Tennessee allow officers to request individuals suspected of driving drunk to submit to both a breath and blood test. Anyone who refuses to submit to a chemical test will lose their license for one year.

Tennessee Penalties for DWI

In addition to the penalties listed below, the court can order the defendant to pay restitution to anyone who suffered a physical injury or personal loss. Attending an alcohol and drug treatment program may be required, and ignition interlock devices may need to be installed.

Category of Offense

Jail Time

Fine Amount

Vehicle Seizure

License Revocation

First Time DUI

48 hours to 11 months

$350 to $1,500


1 Year

Second Time DUI

45 days to 11 months and 29 days

$600 to $3,500


2 Years

Third Time DUI

120 days to 11 months and 29 days

$1,100 to $10,000


3 to 10 Years

Fourth Time DUI

Class E Felony

1 year with minimum of 150 days served consecutively

$3,000 to $15,000


5 Years

Grounds for Vehicle Forfeiture in Tennessee

Law enforcement officers have the authority to fill out a Notice of Seizure form along with a Forfeiture Warrant. If the warrant is signed, there will be a hearing to determine the disposition of the property. If the judge does not sign the Forfeiture Warrant, the vehicle must be returned to the claimant unless it is needed as evidence in a criminal case. The state of Tennessee can seize vehicles for the following reasons:

  • The driver was operating a motor vehicle while their license was revoked due to a prior DWI offense.
  • The vehicle was involved in a second DWI offense within the past five years.

Individuals who have had their vehicle seized can file a claim for a hearing 30 days from the Date of Seizure Notice. An Administrative Law Judge will preside over the hearing and make a decision regarding vehicle seizure. If the judge rules against the claimant, a Petition for Reconsideration must be filed within 10 days. Appeals can also be filed directly with the Tennessee Department of Safety within 15 days from the decision date. If the Appeals Division rules against the claimant, a Petition for Judicial Review can be filed within 60 days. It must be sent to the Tennessee Attorney General's Office and the Department of Safety. If the claimant is unsuccessful in winning their vehicle back, it will be sold and the proceeds will be split between the local and state government.

Legal Advice from a Tennessee Attorney

First-time Tennessee DWI offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or above will be required to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicle. These devices cost around $100 to install and $60 each month for maintenance. Second-time offenders are subject to have their vehicle seized. The laws regarding vehicle forfeiture are complex and require specific procedures to be followed with a certain time frame. Contact a Tennessee attorney right away if you are in danger of losing your property. 

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