I Was Told to Refuse the Chemical Tests. Is that Right?

If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer on suspicion of driving under the influence in the State of Tennessee you will likely be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests, or FSTs. If the results of those tests give the officer further reason to believe you are driving under the influence, or DUI, you will likely be arrested and charged with DUI. Once at the station or jail you will then be asked to submit to a chemical test to check for the presence of alcohol in your system. If you were told to refuse the chemical test you should understand the consequences of doing so before making the decision to follow that advice.

Tennessee, like most states, has an “informed consent” law. An informed consent law essentially means that when you get your state driver’s license and/or decide to operate a motor vehicle on a public roadway within the state you are giving your consent to submit to a chemical test in the event you are arrested and charged with DUI. Typically, you will be asked to take a breath test; although, a urine or blood test is used under certain conditions, particularly if the officer suspects you are under the influence of drugs instead of, or in addition to, alcohol. Your implied consent does not mean you can be forced to submit to a chemical test. You can refuse the test; however, refusal comes with some serious consequences of its own.

In the State of Tennessee, refusing a chemical test for the first time, absent an accident, will result in the loss of your driving privileges for one year. If you are involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death a refusal can result in the loss of your driver’s license for up to five years.

Refusing the test does mean that the prosecution will not have the results of a chemical test to use against you at trial; however, that does not preclude a conviction. The results of a chemical test are not required for a conviction, though they do help the prosecutor secure a conviction. Your refusal can also be entered into evidence against you as evidence of your guilt.

For some people, the license suspension is worth the possibility of avoiding a conviction for DUI. If you are still unsure whether or not you should submit to the chemical test, take the time now to 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.


Dinah Michael