Tennessee DUI: Refusal to Take a Blood, Breath, or Urine Test

In Tennessee, if you get pulled over for a DUI (driving under the influence) and the officer asks you to take a blood, breath, or urine test, do you have to take one? What happens if you refuse?

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Implied Consent

Tennessee law requires you to take a blood, breath, or urine test if you are arrested for a DUI. Tennessee’s “implied consent” law says that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC).  The officer gets to choose which test you take and may ask you to take more than one. The test or tests must be taken as soon as possible from when you were last driving and you cannot refuse without penalty.

You can read Tennessee's implied consent law in the Tennessee Code Annotated 55-10-406.

Refusing to Take the Test

Once you are arrested, the officer should tell you that your license will be suspended for your refusal. Also, if you are driving with a license that already was suspended because you had caused an accident where someone else was seriously injured or killed, then your refusal carries heavier penalties. In addition to a longer suspension, you will have to pay a fine and go to jail or to a work house. Later, if you are also convicted of a DUI – even without evidence of a chemical test – you will not be allowed to drive without installing an ignition interlock device on your car.

The penalties for a first refusal begin with suspension of your license for one year, unless the current refusal involved an accident where someone else was seriously injured or killed. If there were serious injury, then your suspension will last for two years. If someone died, then your suspension will last for five years. For your second refusal alone, the suspension will be for two years.

You may request a hearing to challenge your suspension. If you can prove that the officer did not tell you the consequences of refusal before he or she requested a test, then a court will reinstate your license and cannot make you drive with an ignition interlock device on your car if you are later convicted of a DUI. You may be able to drive under limited terms even if you cannot convince the court to reinstate your licnese. After your license has been suspended, you could ask the court for a restricted-driving permit that would allow you to drive to work, school, or to an alcohol-safety program.

In most situations, if you refuse to take a test then the officer cannot force you to take one. If the officer finds you unconscious or dead, however, then he or she can order a test without having to ask you first.

The consequences of refusal are found in the Tennessee Code Annotated 55-10-406.

Should You Refuse to Take a Mandatory DUI Test in Tennessee?

It usually does not help you to refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test when you are arrested. For a first DUI in Tennessee, your license will be suspended for one year and you will have to pay a fine from $350 to $1,500. If your BAC is .20% or higher, then you have to go to jail for seven days, too. This is slightly more severe than a year-long suspension for refusal. Still, refusing the test does not guarantee that you won’t be convicted – you could be found guilty of a DUI even if your refusal means that the state does not have proof that your BAC was over.08%, the legal limit for those over 21. In fact, the prosecution can use your refusal against you by arguing that you refused the test because you knew that you were intoxicated and guilty of DUI.

Get Help With Your DUI

If you have been arrested on a DUI charge in Tennessee or any other state, get help from an experienced DUI attorney. Unlike other traffic related charges, which might be worth fighting without a lawyer, conviction for a DUI has serious consequences – especially if the incident involved injury to people or property, or if it’s your second or subsequent DUI. To avoid or reduce the consequences, your best bet is to find an attorney who is knowledgeable about your state’s laws and about how the system works in your county’s court.

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