Tennessee Repeals Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender Law

“Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville”by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D. is licensed under CC PDM 1.0



In a major change to how Tennessee law deals with criminal traffic offenses, the Legislature has repealed its Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender (HMVO) law.


No longer will individuals with multiple serious traffic and criminal charges, including DUI, be labeled habitual offenders.


Under the law that existed until last week, offenders with 3 of the following offenses in a five year period or five offenses in a ten year period could be labeled habitual offenders.


  • DUI
  • Vehicular Homicide, Aggravated Vehicular Homicide or Vehicular Assault resulting from intoxication
  • Manslaughter resulting from operation of a vehicle
  • Failure to stop at an accident resulting in injury or death
  • Failure to stop at an accident resulting in damage to a vehicle driven or attended by another
  • Illegally overtaking a school bus
  • Reckless Endangerment by use of a motor vehicle
  • Drag Racing
  • Evading arrest in a motor vehicle
  • Driving on revoked license for any of the above listed offenses


Once the State filed a Petition to label someone a habitual offender and established the required convictions, the individual would lose his or her driving privileges entirely, with no restricted or hardship license options available.


If caught driving while a Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender, a class E felony charge would result under the former law.


I can only speculate about why the legislature would repeal this law, but my best guess is that it results from advances in technology, specifically ignition interlock devices. The installation of such devices are now mandatory in most cases of DUI conviction and the devices can assure Courts, legislators, and fellow drivers that the drivers of cars with them installed are not driving while under the influence of alcohol.


The advent of ignition interlocks has been particularly helpful in a state that lacks public transportation sufficient to keep offenders working and accomplishing basic activities like doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping.


If you are currently declared a Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender, the repeal does not automatically reinstate your license and it is still illegal to drive until you petition a Court and get an Order to allow your license to be reinstated.  This process is on hold until the Tennessee Department of Safety implements its processes for reinstatement, but will begin no later than January 1, 2020.


If you need help reinstating your license from Habitual Offender status in Knoxville or any of its surrounding counties we would be happy to speak with you.