If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer in Tennessee and the officer has reason to believe you are driving under the influence (DUI), you may be placed under arrest and transported to jail. Upon arrival at the jail, you will likely be asked to submit to a chemical breath test. Although it is phrased as a question, can you really refuse to submit to the test? A Murfreesboro DUI lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains what happens if you refuse a chemical test in Tennessee.
Chemical Test Basics
Science provides three ways to detect the presence of alcohol in someone’s system – urine, blood, and breath tests. While urine tests were once the gold standard in alcohol detection, both breath and blood tests are considered more accurate. As such, urine tests are rarely used these days. A blood test is, by far, the most accurate way to determine the level of alcohol in a person’s system and has the added advantage of being able to detect controlled substances as well. A blood test, however, is also far more invasive and, therefore, usually requires a warrant. The courts have ruled that a chemical breath test, on the other hand, does not require a warrant.
You may never have submitted to a breath test, but you have undoubtedly seen someone take one on television or social media. A chemical breath test requires the test subject to blow into a tube. That breath is then analyzed for the presence of alcohol. If alcohol is detected, a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) number will be provided that indicates the extent of alcohol in the blood. A BAC result of over 0.08 percent is considered above the legal limit and can be used as evidence that a driver was driving under the influence of alcohol.
Understanding the Tennessee Implied Consent Law
Like most states, Tennessee has an “implied consent” law. Governed by Tennessee Code Section 55-10-406, Tennessee’s implied consent reads, in pertinent part, as follows:
“Any person who drives a motor vehicle in this state is deemed to have given consent to a test or tests for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of that person’s blood, a test or tests for the purpose of determining the drug content of the person’s blood, or both tests. However, no such test or tests may be administered pursuant to this section, unless conducted at the direction of a law enforcement officer having reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving while under the influence of alcohol, a drug, any other intoxicant or any combination of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants as prohibited by § 55-10-401, or was violating the provisions of § 39-13-106, § 39-13-213(a)(2) or § 39-13-218.
In short, what Tennessee’s implied consent law says is that by operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway you have already given your consent to submit to a chemical breath test if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence.
What Happens If I Refuse to Submit to a Chemical Breath Test?
Despite the existence of the implied consent law, a motorist can still refuse to submit to a chemical test; however, the motorist will likely suffer consequences for that refusal. Tennessee law also makes it clear that a law enforcement officer is required to explain the consequences of refusing to consent to a chemical test when he/she asks for your consent.
If the requirements of the Tennessee implied consent law have been met, and a motorist refuses to take a breath test, he/she faces a one-year driver’s license suspension if the driver has no previous related convictions. If the driver has a previous conviction, he/she faces a two-year suspension of driving privileges. If the DUI resulted in a collision that caused personal injury or death, driving privileges may be suspended for five years or more. Finally, if the motorist was driving on an already suspended license that was suspended for a DUI or a serious driving offense, the driver faces mandatory fines and jail time.
It is important to note that any suspension imposed for refusing to submit to a breath test is in addition to any suspension imposed for a conviction for the underlying DUI charge.
Contact a Murfreesboro DUI Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about what happens if you refuse a chemical breath test in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro DUI lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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