Beginning in July 2016, drunk drivers who have prior DUI convictions will face more severe penalties. The Tennessee General Assembly has enacted a new law that amends Tennessee Code Annotated §55-10-402 and enhances the way Tennessee punishes offenders with multiple DUI convictions. These changes will apply only to those who commit an offense on or after July 1, 2016.
Previously, a conviction for a 4th offense or higher DUI was a Class E Felony. A Class E Felony carries a punishment of 1-6 years. Starting on July 1, while a 4th or 5th offense conviction for DUI will remain a Class E Felony, a person who commits a 6th or subsequent offense will be sentenced as a Class C Felon. A Class C Felony is punishable by 3-15 years in the penitentiary.
Although the mandatory minimum jail sentence for DUI offenders who have six or more convictions will not change, the maximum sentence increases significantly. People who are convicted of a 4th or subsequent offense must serve a mandatory minimum of 150 days in jail. However, based on statistics from 2015 in Tennessee, Class E Felons serve an average of 1.56 years in jail, while Class C Felons serve an average of 4.13 years in jail. This change to the law should significantly increase the amount of incarceration for those who have six or more convictions for DUI.
About the Author: Steven Oberman has been licensed in Tennessee since 1980, and successfully defended over 2,500 DUI defendants. Among the many honors bestowed upon him, Steve served as Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. (NCDD) and currently serves as chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers DUI Committee. Steve was the first lawyer in Tennessee to be Board Certified as a DUI Defense Specialist by the NCDD.
He is the author of DUI: The Crime & Consequences in Tennessee, updated annually since 1991 (Thomson-West), and co-author with Lawrence Taylor of the national treatise, Drunk Driving Defense, 7th edition (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen). Steve has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee Law School since 1993 and has received a number of prestigious awards for his faculty contributions. He is a popular international speaker, having spoken at legal seminars in 30 states, the District of Columbia and three foreign countries.
The author would like to thank his associate attorney, Anna Rickels, for her research and contributions to this article.
If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.tndui.com
 Tennessee Code Annotated §40-35-111(b)(5)
 Tennessee Code Annotated §40-35-111(b)(3)
 Sentencing Practices in Tennessee (April 2015) http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/docs/criminal_sentencing_stats_cy2014_draft_v2.pdf