It has become more important than ever to know what your rights are when you are pulled over by law enforcement. Implied consent laws state that by driving on Tennessee roads, you have implicitly agreed to submit to a breathalyzer test or other chemical test if asked by a police officer. However, an officer cannot ask anyone and everyone to take a chemical test. Only after developing certain evidence (called probable cause) is it permissible for the officer to ask for this test. Refusing to take a breathalyzer test can result in serious consequences, including license revocation, fines, and even jail time.
This blog is about Tennessee implied consent laws and how they can impact a DUI case. If you have been charged with a DUI in Tennessee, it is important to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney who can review the specifics of your case, advise you of your legal options, and protect your rights. At Barnes and Fersten Law Firm, we offer a free consultation to anyone facing DUI charges. Contact us today to schedule yours.
Can You Refuse A Breathalyzer Or Blood Test In Tennessee?
Tennessee’s implied consent law is designed to protect the public from drunk drivers. In Tennessee, you are considered to have given implied consent to a chemical test if you are pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. Refusing to take the test may potentially result in serious consequences, including license suspension and jail time.
However, there may be some circumstances in which you can avoid these consequences. For example, if the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to activate his or her blue lights to pull you over then you may be able to avoid not only the penalties for refusing to take the test but also a DUI conviction. This is because the first stage of a DUI investigation requires that an officer has at a minimum reasonable suspicion to believe that you committed a crime, including a traffic violation, to pull you over. For that reason, it is imperative that you hire a skilled Tennessee DUI attorney that understands the law and all the caveats to a DUI and implied consent law.
Our attorneys review DUI cases in the same manner that officers are trained and supposed to conduct their investigation. A skilled DUI lawyer should review a DUI case by evaluating each of the three phases of a DUI investigation individually from the first stage (vehicle in motion) to the second phase (personal contact) to the final stage (pre-arrest screening). As outlined above, the first stage, the vehicle in motion phase, requires reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime for the officer to be able to blue light your vehicle.
When an officer approaches your window, the second phase or personal contact phase begins. This is an important phase that many lawyers skip over based solely on the plain language of the officer’s affidavit of complaint where officers almost always allege odor of alcohol, red watery and bloodshot eyes, and slurred speech. However, when an officer approaches a window for a traffic violation, the officer is supposed to conduct their investigation as promptly as possible. This means that the officer should not have a preconceived notion that you are driving impaired or prolong his or her investigation without additional evidence, other than the traffic violation itself, to believe you are impaired. There are numerous reasons that may explain each of the officer’s allegations such as sleeplessness, odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle rather than your breath, contacts, or health related issues.
Again, there are countless issues that our lawyers know to look for during this phase of the investigation to ensure that the officer did not turn a traffic investigation into a DUI investigation without discovering enough evidence to prolong the investigation to the third and final phase of the investigation. For example, an officer may base his or her belief that you were driving impaired after running your driver license information and discovering that you were previously convicted of an alcohol or drug related offense. An officer cannot base reasonable suspicion to prolong the stop and turn it into a DUI investigation based on your history. This is just one of many examples that the law requires and our lawyers analyze to ensure the officer had enough evidence to move onto phase three.
Lastly, the third phase is the field sobriety testing, where the police officer has the person perform certain tasks in order to judge their level of intoxication. More information on this phase can be found in our blog regarding field sobriety tests.
After reviewing each phase individually to determine if the officer prolonged the traffic stop further than the evidence allowed, we finally review the case based on the totality of the circumstances, any medical conditions that you may have or other personal issues that may have impacted the officer’s opinion of the case to see if the officer lacked probable cause to place you under arrest. This is another way our lawyers may prevent you from having adverse effects on your license from failing to provide a blood or breath sample. Every case is different and requires to be analyzed as closely as possible to see if there is a possible defense to the charge of implied consent and DUI.
Can Police Draw Blood For A Suspected DUI Without Consent In Tennessee?
If you are stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence in Tennessee, the law enforcement officer may ask you to submit to a blood test. If the officer has a warrant, you must comply with the request. However, if the officer does not have a warrant, you have the right to refuse to submit to the test. Keep in mind that if you do refuse to take the test, your driver’s license could be suspended for one year or longer depending on your history. Many people are told refusing the test results in an “automatic” suspension of your license. That is not the case, and you have the right to fight such as suspension in court.
Another potential defense is if the officer fails to read you the implied consent form and adequately advise you of the consequences of refusing to provide a sample. This is a mandatory requirement that can result in the charge potentially being dismissed.
Will You Automatically Be Convicted Of DUI If Your Blood Results Are Above A .08?
If the police receive a blood sample through either your consent or through a search warrant it does not automatically mean that you will be convicted of DUI. As outlined above, our lawyers analyze each of the three stages of a DUI investigation to determine if the officer had enough evidence to continue with his or her investigation. At any point during the officer’s investigation if the officer lacked enough evidence to continue, you may potentially have a defense that results in the suppression of all evidence discovered after that point, including the blood or breath results, potentially the field sobriety testing, and potentially even the personal contact phase and any admissions made during that phase.
Moreover, there are numerous specific requirements as it relates to the blood result admissibility. If your blood was obtained through implied consent, the officer must have had probable cause, as outlined previously, and the officer must have you sign the implied consent form prior to you providing a blood sample. In some cases, officers forget to have the arrestee sign the implied consent form prior to receiving blood but receive the signature after drawing the blood sample. This is one of many details involved in a DUI case that our lawyers know to look for when reviewing the bodycam footage of your arrest to provide you with the highest quality defense possible to help achieve the best results possible based on the facts of your case.
Additionally, there may be issues with chain of custody for the blood results to be admissible. There may have been an inadequate sample, we may decide to retest your blood results, or there may be a disconnect between your blood results and your appearance that may establish the blood result’s unreliability.
Similarly, breath tests have stringent requirements to be admissible such as regular testing of the breath machine to ensure its accuracy and the requirement that the officer observe you for 20 minutes prior to collecting a breath sample to ensure you did not put anything in your mouth or regurgitate that may impact the validity of the breath test.
Refusing Field Sobriety Tests In Tennessee
If a law enforcement officer asks you to take a field sobriety test in Tennessee, you have the right to refuse. These tests are voluntary, and your participation is not required by law. However, it is important to understand that there may be consequences for refusing to take a field sobriety test. For example, the officer may still arrest you for DUI based on other evidence, such as your behavior or appearance. Tennessee law even allows an officer to potentially have probable cause based on the “totality of the circumstances” even if you are among the minority that are able to “pass” the field sobriety testing.
The officer may also ask your consent to search your car. If you consent and the officer finds evidence of intoxication, such as open containers or drug paraphernalia, you may be charged with DUI, and potentially other charges based on what is found during the search of your vehicle, even if you have not taken a field sobriety test.
Our lawyers attend training sessions across the nation and stay up to date on the latest developments in DUI law to provide you with the highest quality legal defense team. We review the bodycam and dashcam footage intently and understand exactly what to look for in the officer’s investigation to determine every possible legal defense.
Consult With A Tennessee DUI Lawyer
If you are facing a DUI and violation of implied consent laws in Tennessee, it is important to speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney who can review the specifics of your case and advise you of your legal options. At Barnes and Fersten Law Firm, we offer a free consultation to anyone facing DUI charges. Contact us today to schedule yours.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.