CategoryFiled under: DUI/DWI

Being declared an habitual motor vehicle offender in Tennessee is a serious matter with lasting consequences. It means you lose your license and could face jail time. Habitual Motor Vehicle Offender (HMVO) laws are civil and not criminal because it’s based on the principle that driving in Tennessee (as in every state) is a privilege and not a right.

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Being declared an habitual motor vehicle offender is not a crime nor a criminal conviction; however violating the order is a crime. An habitual motor vehicle offender is anyone who is convicted of certain driving offenses in Tennessee within a certain number of years. It could be

  • three offenses within three years
  • three offenses within five years,
  • or five offenses within ten years.

If the five or ten year period is used then one of the offenses must have occurred after July 1, 1991.

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    The crimes that can trigger habitual offender status include voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, vehicular homicide, DUI, reckless driving, evading arrest, and driving on a cancelled, suspended or revoked license where the basis of the cancellation, suspension or revocation is any of the above offenses. There are other offenses as well but these are the most common.

    If a driver reaches the requisite number and type of convictions, the state can proceed with the petition. This petition gets served on the driver, who must then appear at court to show cause why he or she should not be barred from operating a motor vehicle in Tennessee. The case then proceeds to a hearing where the state must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the driver does have the necessary conviction on his record. This can be done by introducing certified, authenticated court records of the convictions.

    Once declared an habitual offender, it is unlawful to operate a vehicle while the order is in effect. Doing so is a Class E felony punishable from 1-6 years in prison. How a driver gets “caught” driving while an habitual motor vehicle offender can vary, and it doesn’t have to be for a serious crime. For instance you could get pulled over for speeding five miles over and they can find out during the traffic stop that you’re habitual. That’s enough to get you charged with a felony.

    If the state is petitioning to declare you an habitual offender, or you have been so declared and would like your status removed, contact Memphis habitual motor vehicle offender attorney Patrick Stegall at (901) 205-9894 or

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