If a police officer spots someone who seems to be driving after having too much to drink, they will pull that person over. Officers will then ask a driver questions about why they maneuvered in a certain way or what they did before getting behind the wheel.
Depending on the answers provided and the behavior of the driver, the officer may then request a field sobriety test. Finally, they will likely ask for the driver to submit to a chemical test for alcohol. Such testing requests usually come after someone has admitted to drinking or performed poorly on a field sobriety test.
Can a driver who doesn’t want to perform a chemical test refuse to provide a breath sample during a driving under the influence (DUI) traffic stop?
Tennessee has laws that require people to submit to chemical tests
The state cannot compel you to complete a chemical test, in most situations. However, given that most people who know they have had too much to drink would deny a request for chemical testing if the law allowed them to do so, the state limits driving privileges to protect the public.
The implied consent law in Tennessee requires that drivers submit to either chemical breath testing or blood testing when a police officer has probable cause to suspect impairment. Either form of testing is permissible when probable cause, permission or exigent circumstances necessitate testing. An officer could also go to a judge to seek a warrant if someone refuses to grant permission.
A driver could still refuse to perform the test, but they will then face arrest and the suspension of their license as a result. A chemical test refusal might mean losing your license for two years in addition to any DUI penalties you face.
Will a test refusal protect you from a DUI?
Losing your license temporarily may seem like a minor trade-off for avoiding a DUI charge.
It’s important to understand that refusing a test won’t necessarily protect you from impaired driving charges. A prosecutor could still bring DUI charges against you, and the officer testifying about your behavior during the traffic stop might even use the fact that you refused the test as evidence that you knew you shouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel.
Learning more about drunk driving rules and how the state prosecutes these cases could help you avoid a DUI conviction.