What Happens If I Refuse the Chemical Test in Tennessee?

If you are arrested for driving under the influence in the State of Tennessee you will likely be asked to submit to a chemical test when you arrive at the station or jail. The purpose of the chemical test is to confirm the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in your system. Clearly, if the test does show the presence of alcohol or drugs in your system those test results will then be used against you in court. With that in mind you may be thinking that refusing the test is the best option. Before you make that decision you should know what happens if you refuse the chemical test in Tennessee.

In an arrest for driving under the influence, or DUI, the best evidence a law enforcement officer can gather is a test result showing that the driver had alcohol or drugs in his/her system. Before chemical testing became commonplace, prosecutors had to rely on the testimony of a law enforcement officer to prove that a motorist was “intoxicated” or “under the influence” in order to secure a conviction. With the advent of chemical testing, however, the job of a prosecutor became much easier. There are three different types of chemical tests that can be used – blood, breath, or urine. A breath test is usually used unless the officer suspects that a motorist is using drugs in which case a blood or urine test may be used because breath test machines can only detect the presence of alcohol. If you find yourself under arrest and asked to submit to one of these tests what should you do?

Only you can decide how to respond; however, you should know that you do have the right to refuse a chemical test. Refusing comes with its own penalties though, and does not guarantee you will avoid a conviction. Tennessee’s implied consent law essentially states that if you are arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you were driving while under the influence you consent to a chemical test. Should you refuse the test your driving privileges will automatically be revoked for one year for a first refusal. A first time refusal with serious bodily injury or death, or a second or subsequent refusal will result in a license revocation of two years or more. Moreover, the prosecutor can use your refusal against you at trial as evidence of your guilt.

Despite the penalties for refusing, for some people it is still better to refuse than to simply hand the prosecutor a case against them. If are unsure how you should respond should you ever be in the position to consent or refuse a chemical test, consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.


Stan Bennett