What happens if I refuse a breathalyzer or blood test when suspected of DUI?
Tennessee’s Implied Consent Law.
In Tennessee, individuals suspected or charged with Driving Under the Influence (“DUI/DWI”) can potentially be charged with an additional offense – Violation of Implied Consent – for refusing to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test after an officer’s request.
What is Implied Consent?
Tennessee’s Implied Consent statute, found at Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-406, essentially provides that any person who operates a motor vehicle in Tennessee automatically or “impliedly” gives his consent to being tested for the presence or alcohol or drugs in his blood. Put differently, when an officer has reasonable suspicion that an individual is driving under the influence, the officer may request that the driver submits to a test, which Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-406 says he has already consented to, simply because he was operating a vehicle on a Tennessee road.
Can I still refuse the test?
The short answer is yes. Even with the implied consent statute in place, drivers in Tennessee have a right to refuse the breath, blood, or urine test. However, refusing to submit to a test can have consequences. The most typical consequence is revocation or suspension of the driver’s license, but there can be jail time depending on the circumstances.
How does my Implied Consent charge fit in with my DUI case?
Though the implied consent and DUI charges are interrelated and come from the same set of circumstances, they are actually two separate charges. Should the matter go to trial, the issues are determined separately, with a jury determining guilt or innocence of the DUI and the judge determining whether the Defendant violated the Implied Consent statute. As such, a defendant can be found not guilty of DUI, but can still be found guilty of violating the Implied Consent statute.
What is the penalty for violating the Implied Consent statute?
When a defendant is found guilty of violating the implied consent statute, stemming from a criminal DUI charge, the penalty largely depends on the defendant’s criminal record and the circumstances of the case. Generally, however, the penalties are as follows:
- No prior criminal convictions:
- One (1) year license revocation.
- Prior criminal convictions or one drunk driving related charge:
- Two (2) years license revocation.
- Current revoked or suspended license from a conviction of DUI, Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, Vehicular Homicide, or Vehicular Assault:
- A Class A Misdemeanor conviction; Probation for 11 months and 29 days; license revocation for two (2) to five (5) years (depending on the circumstances of the case); and a fine of up to $1,000.00.
Each DUI and Implied Consent case is unique and is determined by the individual circumstances of the case. While this article can serve as a useful overview of the Implied Consent issue, it does not replace or replicate the value of an experienced attorney. If you are charged with DUI and/or an Implied Consent violation, the experienced attorneys at Batson Nolan are ready to take your case and fight for you to the fullest extent of the law. Do not hesitate to call in for a free initial consultation.