Your Rights and DUI Tests
March 28, 2022
When you are suspected by law enforcement of driving under the influence (DUI), you may be asked to submit to DUI tests. Many motorists in Tennessee do not understand their rights during DUI tests. In particular, many people do not know whether or not they can refuse a test without any penalty.
The purpose of DUI tests is to determine the level of the driver’s impairment in order to convict a motorist of drunk driving. If you do not understand your rights during DUI stops or want to know whether or not you can refuse a test, reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney. Attorney Frank Brazil understands Tennessee DUI laws and assists drivers facing criminal charges for drunk driving in Nashville, throughout Rutherford County, and the rest of Tennessee.
Your Rights During DUI Tests in Tennessee
All states have their own version of the “implied consent” law, which typically requires all drivers to submit to breath and/or blood testing when they are arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Under implied consent law, everyone who gets a driver’s license automatically consents to any future DUI tests to determine their level of impairment. However, the requirement to submit to DUI testing is not triggered unless the police officer has probable cause to believe that the motorist was operating or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.
Unlike in most other states, the requirements of Tennessee’s implied consent law do not extend to blood testing. It means that you can refuse to submit to a blood test and will not face penalties for the refusal unless the officer has a warrant.
Can You Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?
Field sobriety tests encompass several roadside evaluations performed by law enforcement officers during a DUI stop. Common examples of field sobriety tests are walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze tests.
Contrary to popular belief, you have no obligation to agree to a field sobriety test. It means that sobriety tests are voluntary tests and all drivers in Tennessee have a right to refuse the test. While you do have a right to refuse a field sobriety test, a police officer may be more likely to arrest you for the refusal.
In most cases, law enforcement officers do not tell drivers that they have a right to refuse a field sobriety test—while others may even falsely claim that the driver has an obligation to submit to a field sobriety test.
Can You Refuse a Blood Alcohol Test?
In Tennessee, drivers cannot be forced to submit to blood alcohol tests if there is no search warrant and no exigent circumstances exist. However, a blood test may be mandatory when:
The driver is involved in a car crash causing injury or death to others;
There is a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle; or
The driver has been convicted of prior DUIs or related offenses.
Blood alcohol tests may also be administered when a driver is unconscious if there is a search warrant or any of the above-mentioned circumstances exist.
Penalties for Refusing a DUI Test in Tennessee
Motorists who unlawfully refuse a chemical test may face license suspension for a period that can be longer than the suspension of the license that the driver would receive for a DUI conviction.
Implied consent violations are considered civil offenses in Tennessee. Penalties may increase when a drunk motorist causes injuries or death due to driving while impaired.
Challenging Blood Test Results
If you have been charged with driving under the influence after a blood test showed that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit, you might still be able to challenge blood test results if any of the following is true:
Improper technology or equipment malfunction. If improper technology is used when administering a blood test, the driver may challenge the accuracy of the test results. Improper technology or equipment malfunction may produce a false positive reading.
The test was administered improperly. There are specific procedures in place when administering blood tests. If the test is conducted improperly, the driver facing DUI charges may be able to challenge blood test results.
Improper handling or storage of blood samples. Blood tests require specific handling and storage of the specimen in order to ensure that the test produces accurate results. When blood samples are not handled properly, they can get contaminated.
If a blood test showed that you were impaired beyond legal limits, contact an attorney to help you enforce your rights and determine if you can challenge the blood test results.
Don’t Risk Your Future
A DUI conviction can result in life-altering consequences, including a driver’s license suspension, fines, and jail time, among others. If you are facing DUI charges and do not understand your rights, do not risk your future. Contact a skilled criminal defense attorney to prepare a strong defense strategy and fight for the best possible result in your case. Get a case review with Attorney Frank Brazil in Nashville, Tennessee, to discuss your specific situation.