Can a drunk driver refuse to take a chemical test in Tennessee?

A Tennessee driver who refuses to take a chemical test during a drunk driving arrest faces certain license revocation penalties.

In Tennessee, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, it is illegal for people to drive with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or higher. If a law enforcement official believes that a driver has exceeded this legal limit, the official may pull the driver over and have him or her take a breath or blood test to determine his or her BAC level.

The penalties for refusing a chemical test

When a driver refuses to take a chemical test during a DUI arrest, he or she faces certain penalties depending on how many times he or she has refused one of these tests in the past. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, an alleged drunk driver who refuses to take a chemical for the first time will lose his or her driver's license for a year. Comparatively, a driver who refuses a chemical test for the second time will have his or her driver's license revoked for two years.

However, a driver will automatically lose his or her driver's license for two years if he or she caused a crash that resulted in bodily injury and he or she did not take a chemical test. Additionally, if an accident occurs that resulted in death, a driver who does not take a chemical test will automatically have his or her driver's license revoked for five years.

Other consequences still apply

The penalties for refusing to take a chemical test are separate from the penalties a driver faces if he or she is found guilty of operating a vehicle with a BAC level at or above 0.08. Similar to these penalties, the consequences for DUI are often dependent on the number of prior DUI offenses on a driver's record. For instance, according to the DSHS, a driver convicted of driving with a BAC level of 0.08 to 0.19 for the first time may:

  • Have to spend anywhere from 48 hours to 11 months and 29 days in jail
  • Be required to participate in an alcohol and drug treatment plan
  • Have to pay a fine of $350 to $1,500

Comparatively, a third-time DUI offender may have to pay anywhere from $1,100 to $10,000 in mandatory fines, spend up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program.

Reach out to an attorney

Drivers in Tennessee who refuse to take a chemical test may worry about how the penalties associated with this offense and the other penalties associated with DUI will affect them. If you have similar concerns, turn to an attorney near you to discuss what legal steps you should take next.

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