For most motorists, the sight of flashing lights in the rearview mirror is not a welcome one. This is particularly true if the motorist has a drink or two before getting behind the wheel. If you were recently stopped and ultimately arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), you were undoubtedly asked to submit to a chemical breath test once you arrived at the station or jail. What happens if you refused to take that breath test in the State of Tennessee? Given the numerous factors and circumstances that can impact a DUI case, you should always consult an experienced DUI defense attorney for specific answers; however, in the meantime, a Tennessee DUI lawyer offers an overview of the Tennessee implied consent laws and the possible repercussions for refusing the breath test.
What Are Implied Consent Laws?
Not all that long ago, driving under the influence was not considered a serious offense in the United States. Judges routinely handed down a “slap on the wrist” in all but the most egregious cases and law enforcement officers even overlooked “minor” infractions. All of that changed thanks to a campaign by private advocacy groups and government agencies to raise public awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving. As awareness grew, states strengthened their drunk driving laws and increased their penalties for a violation of those laws. For some time, however, a veritable loophole remained – refusing the chemical test. Because states laws relied so heavily on the results of a chemical test to convict a defendant of DUI, many motorists simply refused the test. That, in turn, led to the passage of “implied consent” laws in most states across the country, including Tennessee. Tennessee’s implied consent law states that anyone who operates a motor vehicle within the state has deemed to have given consent for a chemical test to test for the presence of alcohol in the person’s blood. You can still refuse a breath test, in most cases; however, that refusal will come with consequences of its own that are separate and independent from any punishment you may receive if convicted of the underlying DUI charge.
Consequences of a Refusal
Tennessee Code Section 55-10-406 et seq. governs the refusal of a breath test. Under that section, your driver’s license will be revoked by the court for refusing the breath test for a period of:
- One year if you do not have a prior conviction for a violation of § 55-10-401, § 39-13-213(a)(2), § 39-13-218, § 39-13-106, or § 55-10-418, in this state, or a similar offense in any other jurisdiction.
- Two years, if you do have a prior conviction for an offense set out in subdivision (a)(4)(A)(i).
- Two years, if the court finds that you were involved in an accident, in which one or more persons suffered serious bodily injury.
- Five years, if the court finds that you were involved in an accident in which one or more persons were killed.
In addition, if the court or jury finds that you were driving on a license that was revoked, suspended or cancelled because of a conviction for vehicular assault under § 39-13-106, vehicular homicide under § 39-13-213, aggravated vehicular homicide under § 39-13-218, or driving under the influence of an intoxicant under § 55-10-401 at the time of your refusal, you will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), and shall be sentenced to a minimum mandatory jail or workhouse sentence of five days, which shall be served consecutively, day for day, and which sentence cannot be suspended.
Can I Get a Restricted License?
If your license has been suspended because you refused a breath test, you may qualify for a restricted license which will allow you to operate a motor vehicle for the purpose of:
- Going to and from and working at the person’s regular place of employment;
- Going to and from a court-ordered alcohol safety program;
- Going to and from a college or university in the case of a student enrolled full time in the college or university; and
- Going to and from a scheduled interlock monitoring appointment.
Contact a Tennessee DUI Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about the penalties for effusing a breath test, or about a DUI in general in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Tennessee DUI attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.