After being arrested for suspected DUI in Tennessee, a police officer will request the driver to submit to a chemical test (e.g., breath, blood, or urine test) to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s system. But what happens if the driver refuses to take a test?
Implied Consent in Tennessee
According to Tennessee’s implied consent law, any person who drives a vehicle in the state automatically consents to a breath test to determine his/her blood alcohol concentration (BAC), so long as an officer has probable cause to believe the driver was impaired while operating a vehicle.
However, the state’s implied consent law does not cover blood tests. Therefore, a driver cannot be penalized for refusing an officer’s request to take a blood test, unless there is an active warrant or there are exigent circumstances that exempt the warrant requirement.
Penalties for Refusal
Although a driver has the right to refuse to take the chemical test, refusal of a lawfully requested test is punishable by a driver’s license suspension of one year. If a person has a prior DUI conviction, then refusal can result in a two-year license suspension.
Additionally, if a driver is involved in a car accident and another person suffers a serious bodily injury, he/she can face a two-year license suspension for refusing a BAC test. If a person dies in a crash, the driver can face a five-year license suspension for a test refusal.
Drivers who have their license suspended for refusal still qualify for a “restricted license” that allows them to drive to work, school, and treatment. Yet, the court may require the driver to install an ignition interlock device (IID) as a condition.
Can the Court Use My Refusal Against Me?
Unfortunately, yes. While it may be more challenging for the prosecution to prove a DUI without a valid result from a BAC test, a driver’s refusal can be used against him/her at trial. Even though refusal does not definitively prove impairment, persecutors can argue that refusing to submit to a chemical test means the person was attempting to hide intoxication.