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10 Laws You Should Know If You're in Tennessee

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Tennessee's two largest cities, Nashville and Memphis, also happen to be two of the most important cities in America's musical history, launching the careers of countless American blues, country, and rock 'n' roll artists.

But Tennessee's history includes much more than just music. It was the 16th state to join the Union, and the first Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union following the Civil War.

Whether you're visiting the Volunteer State to take in its scenic beauty or moving to Nashville to make a career in the music business, what do you need to know about Tennessee's laws? Here are 10 laws you should know if you're in Tennessee:

  1. DUI Laws. Tennessee has mandatory jail time for DUI offenders. A first-time DUI offender gets 48 hours in jail -- unless that person is found to have a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.20 percent, then the sentence can range from a minimum of seven days to a maximum of nearly one year in jail.
  2. Password sharing. In Tennessee, sharing the password to a subscription-based streaming service such as Netflix or Rhapsody is now a misdemeanor, following the passage of a law in 2011.
  3. Same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is not allowed or recognized under Tennessee law. The state's ban on same-sex marriage was recently upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  4. Medical marijuana. Tennessee law makes no exception for the medicinal use of marijuana. In Tennessee, possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor.
  5. Gambling laws. With a few exceptions, such as horse racing and bingo, most forms of gambling are outlawed in Tennessee. Even a fishing tournament that offered cash prizes to participants who paid an entry fee was found to be illegal gambling under Tennessee's gambling laws, which forbid "Risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance."
  6. Minimum wage. Tennessee has no minimum wage law of its own. Instead, workers are subject to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
  7. Pregnant drug users. Pregnant women who use drugs in Tennessee may be charged with assault if the child is born addicted, harmed, or dies as a result of the drug use.
  8. Corporal punishment. In Tennessee public schools, corporal punishment is allowed "in order to maintain discipline and order" as long as it is "imposed in a reasonable manner."
  9. Grounds for divorce. Tennessee divorce law allows couples to obtain a "no fault" divorce only after a separation of two years and if no minor children are involved. Otherwise, grounds for divorce include adultery, drug addiction, cruelty, or the existence of a previously unresolved marriage.
  10. Castle doctrine. Although an individual must obtain a permit to carry a concealed or open handgun in Tennessee, the state's "castle doctrine" self-defense law has been expanded to allow loaded handguns and long guns to be carried in a person's car without a permit.

Learn more about Tennessee state laws at FindLaw's section on Tennessee Law.

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