The 10 Most Common Ways to Get a Suspended License in Tennessee

There are many reasons your license can be suspended or revoked in Tennessee, like not having insurance or collecting too many traffic tickets.
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Pat Roache
You can face having your license suspended in
for failing to carry minimum liability insurance or accumulating too many points on your
driving record
. But more serious offenses, like driving under the influence (DUI), can lead to license revocation.
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What’s the difference between a license suspension and revocation?

Suspension and renovation both mean that you’ve lost your driving privileges, but they are used differently based on the seriousness of your violation and the timeliness of reinstatement—here are the definitions:
  • A license suspension means you’ve lost your driving privileges temporarily. You can get back on the road if you meet all
    reinstatement requirements
    and avoid any subsequent offenses.
  • A license revocation means the Tennessee DMV has invalidated your driver’s license for a mandatory amount of time. This punishment is reserved for more severe violations.
The legal terminology may vary from state to state, but let’s be clear: A suspended license in Tennessee allows the driver to actively regain driving privileges in a timely manner if they follow legal procedures and pay reinstatement fees. However, a revoked license means you’ll lose your driving privileges for your violation’s entire duration, no matter what.

What can your license be suspended for in Tennessee?

Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right. If the Tennessee Department of Safety determines you’ve violated one of their
criteria for license suspension/revocation
, then you’ll have to find a new ride around town. So to help you maintain your driving privileges, you’ll want to avoid these common violations.

If you drive without car insurance

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in Tennessee without a car insurance policy that meets
Tennessee’s car insurance laws
. Failure to comply will result in a $300 fine, a class C misdemeanor against your driving record, and a license suspension until you can provide
proof of insurance
and financial responsibility.

If you fail to appear in court

Some traffic violations require an in-person visit to the courtroom. If you don’t show up, you have 30 days to request a new hearing date. Failure to do so can cause your driver’s license status to become suspended.

If you drive under the influence

It’s hard not to indulge in a couple of adult beverages when exploring
’s honky tonk highway or attending a Tennessee Volunteers football game in
. However, if you do, you must find a safe ride home. 
A conviction for driving under the influence (
) will result in your license being revoked for one year, with subsequent offenses being lengthier (up to eight years). 
Tennessee DUI laws
give judges discretion to issue orders for a restricted driver’s license after a DUI conviction. This will allow you to regain your driving privileges during the revocation period, but only to drive to and from work or to drive with an ignition interlock device.
And while we’re on the topic, it is in your legal right to refuse a sobriety test in Tennessee. But this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Your driving privileges can still be suspended for a period of one to two years, depending on the determination of the court.

If you accumulate too many points

All traffic tickets add
driver's license points
to your Tennessee driving record. For example, a
reckless driving
conviction will count as six points. In Tennessee, drivers with 12 points within 12 months will have their license suspended for six to 12 months
You do have the legal right to request a court hearing to contest traffic violations. You will also have the option to attend a defensive driving course (once every five years) to deduct points from your record, which can potentially help you avoid a license suspension. 

If your license is suspended or revoked in another state

If you’ve lost your driving privileges in a state other than Tennessee, you will not be able to legally hold a
Tennessee driver’s license
. First, you’ll need to satisfy the other state’s driver's license reinstatement process and submit proof to the DMV that the matter has been settled. 

If you attempt to buy alcohol with a fake ID

Tennessee drivers under 21 will be subject to a license suspension if convicted of trying to purchase alcohol with a fake ID. If you’re a first-time offender, the suspension will last one year or until you turn 17—whichever is greater. Suspension may be withdrawn early by court order after 90 days.

If you leave the scene of an accident 

Leaving the scene of an accident, also referred to as
, always makes matters worse. If you damage property in a collision and take off, you could have your license suspended. If you injure or kill someone in an accident and flee the scene, your license will be revoked
And that’s just the punishments that are directed toward your Tennessee driver’s license. Other penalties can include hefty fines and potential jail time.

If you participate in speed/contest racing

Tennessee takes speed/contest/drag racing very seriously. First-time convictions result in a one-year license revocation, and drivers who collect two or more violations within ten years will have their driving privileges revoked for life

If you fail to maintain SR-22 insurance

Traffic violations that involve a driver’s license suspension or revocation typically require you to hold
SR-22 insurance
as part of your reinstatement process. This insurance labels you as a high-risk driver, but it gives the DMV some peace of mind that you have the minimum amount of liability coverage.
SR-22 insurance must be carried for a minimum of 3 years following the date of the suspension or revocation and may be required for up to 5 years. Failure to do so could result in an additional suspension.
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