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The right of refusal in Tennessee: What you should know

Tennessee law requires drivers to submit to chemical testing upon a DUI arrest, though they do have the right to refuse.

Getting pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving is unnerving. In Tennessee, there is a law that states that people who hold a valid driver's license automatically agree to submit to a chemical test if they are arrested on DUI charges. However, it is possible for someone to refuse to take the test. Anyone considering doing so should understand the possible consequences.

What is implied consent?

The law that dictates that drivers must take a blood, breath or urine test is known as the implied consent law. In order to invoke it, a law enforcement officer must suspect that the driver is impaired. Further, the officer is permitted to choose which type of test may be run, and may even choose to administer more than one test.

May I refuse a test?

Yes. Refusing a test is not a criminal charge, though it does have civil consequences. Drivers are permitted to refuse to take a test. However, if the driver has been involved in a drunk driving incident in which someone was killed or serious injured, the test will be performed anyway. Additionally, drivers who are unconscious automatically submit to a test.

What are the consequences of refusing?

If the driver wishes to refuse the test, the law enforcement officer is required to let the person know what the possible consequences are. For example, the first time someone refuses a test results in a driver's license suspension for one year, though he or she may be able to obtain a restricted license. For a second or third offense, the license revocation period is two years.

If the driver's license had already been suspended for a DUI in which there was a fatality or serious injury, there may be additional consequences. This could include a fine or jail time. It is also possible that, upon a DUI conviction, the driver will have to install an ignition interlock device in order to operate a vehicle with a restricted license.

Is it worth it to refuse a test?

Many people refuse to take a test because it could, essentially, provide prosecutors with evidence that could be used against them in court. Consider that for a first DUI offense, the license suspension period is also one year, which is the same as refusing a test. When the driver's blood alcohol concentration is above 0.20, there is also a minimum jail sentence of seven days.

Can I challenge my license suspension?

Yes. Drivers who refuse a test may be able to challenge their suspended licenses, especially in circumstances in which the law enforcement officer did not alert them to the consequences of a refusal.

Seeking legal advice as soon as possible is key to making the right decisions in these circumstances. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a criminal defense attorney in Tennessee.

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