What can happen if I refuse a chemical test in Tennessee?

A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) comes with harsh penalties. No one wants to pay costly fines or spend time in prison, which is why some people refuse chemical tests at DUI stops, thinking they can avoid conviction by doing so.

This is not always true, though it may make the case more difficult for the State to prove. You should know that you have the right to refuse a chemical test.  By refusing the test, you do risk losing your license for a year under the implied consent statute, but you may still be eligible for a restricted license that requires an ignition interlock to be put into your car.

Refusing a chemical test does not mean that the State cannot obtain a conviction of you for driving under the influence if DUI can be proved by impairment or if a search warrant is obtained for your blood.

Implied consent

You have the possibility of refusing to take a breath, blood or urine test if a police officer asks for it. However, you could face a penalty if you do this, as Tennessee’s implied consent law considers every driver to have given their consent to a chemical test. If you refuse the test, you will commit a civil offense, and you may lose your driving privileges as a consequence.


The length of time that you could lose your driving privileges for a DUI or implied consent will depend on whether this is your first or subsequent offense:

  • First offense: revocation of driver’s license for 1 year
  • Second offense: revocation of driver’s license for 2 years
  • Third offense: revocation of driver’s license for 3 to 10 years

The court could convict you of a DUI crime even if you do not take a chemical test. Instead of relying on the tests, the court can also take the police officer’s testimony as evidence. If the police officer says you had slurred speech, dilated pupils, failed field sobriety tests, or alcohol in the car, for example, the evidence may be sufficient to convict you of DUI.

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