Can you avoid a DUI arrest by refusing to do a breath test?

| Apr 8, 2021 | DUI |

Behaviors with perfectly reasonable (legal) explanations can lead officers to think someone is driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. When an officer suspects impairment, they typically initiate a traffic stop.

They pull someone over and talk to them briefly. If that person either admits to drinking before getting behind the wheel or displays possible signs of impairment, the officer may then ask for a field sobriety test or chemical breath test. If someone fails a field sobriety test, the officer typically has probable cause to demand that they perform a breath test.

Can you avoid getting arrested for a DUI in Tennessee by telling an officer that you won’t perform a breath test?

State law says you have already given consent for breath testing

Driving requires a license and is a privilege, not a legal right. You have to comply with certain regulations in order to maintain that privilege. One of the laws in Tennessee that restricts your driving privileges is the implied consent law.

Essentially, to make sure that officers can help keep the roads as safe as possible, state law says every driver on public roads has already given their implied consent to a chemical breath test. An officer cannot compel you to perform a blood test without a warrant, but they can expect you to perform a breath test. If you refuse, they can arrest you for not taking the test.

Does an implied consent violation mean you won’t face a DUI?

Obviously, getting arrested for not taking a breath test isn’t ideal. You will face the suspension of your license just like you would for a drunk driving infraction. However, it is a less serious offense with lower overall consequences than a DUI might carry.

The bad news is that refusing a breath test doesn’t conclusively prevent the state from charging you with a DUI. Everything from the behavior driver displayed at the wheel so your performance on the field sobriety test could still be enough to build a case against you.

Those accused of a DUI may need to know their rights and Tennessee state law in order to best defend themselves.