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Implied consent, DUI tests and your driver's license

Having a driver's license in your pocket means you are free to drive anywhere in the United States. But the state asserts the right to suspend your license if you refuse to take a breath or blood test for suspected chemical impairment.

Why is that?

This is due to a legal principle known as "implied consent." Essentially, the law says that when the state issues you a driver's license, you by implication agree to submit to a breath or blood test if an officer ever orders you to do so. Even though you never signed a piece of paper agreeing to this, the fact that you have a driver's license means you automatically agree to this arrangement.

What if a driver does not take the test?

In reality, people do not always consent to these tests, which are meant to collect evidence police and prosecutors could use against them in court. Different states carry different penalties for refusing a breath or blood test. Here in Tennessee, refusal to submit a blood or breath sample for testing will likely result in a civil petition being filed with the court seeking to suspend your driver's license. This petition may be contested in court but it is important to consult a qualified lawyer, especially if the civil petition is filed together with any criminal charges, such as DUI.

Under some circumstances, for example if one is found liable for an implied consent violation committed while driving on revoked, suspended, or canceled license as a result of certain prior convictions, Tennessee then treats the implied consent violation as a criminal offense carrying mandatory jail time and possible fines.

What can I do if the test says I was over the limit?

The results of a breath test or blood test are not always accurate or determinative of guilt. They can and often should be challenged in court. In addition to possible problems with the test results themselves, sometimes there are problems with the way the police obtained the blood or breath testing sample or administered the tests so it is often worth contesting cases even where a blood alcohol reading is above the presumptive legal limit of a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration

You could be facing severe penalties if you are convicted of DUI, including time in jail and steep fines, even if you have a clean record. An experienced DUI defense attorney can be a crucial resource in protecting your rights and assessing your options.

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Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers
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Chattanooga, TN 37402-2913

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