If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving (DUI) in Tennessee, do you have to consent to a blood draw? The answer to this question is always “no.” There are no legal penalties for refusing to consent to a blood test. This is different from the other type of alcohol test, breath tests, where there is a statutory presumption that all motorists in Tennessee have given their consent to submit to breath-alcohol testing.
Whether that refusal will prevent an officer from having blood drawn will almost always depend on whether a warrant is obtained to collect a blood sample. An officer may legally administer a blood test without consent where he or she first obtains a warrant for the test. In rare cases, an officer may administer a blood test without consent if there are “exigent circumstances.” In either of these two scenarios, the blood can be collected by force.
You may be wondering why a police officer would go through the struggle to obtain blood from someone who doesn’t want to give it when he or she can use other methods of testing for excess alcohol consumption. For example, the breathalyzer test is far more common.
State law gives the arresting officer discretion on which test to perform. He or she can also order you to take more than one. Even so, the officer must have a valid reason for pulling you over and inform you of your legal rights. It’s also imperative that the officer perform the test correctly to ensure accurate results. You may have a legitimate legal challenge if the arresting officer completed any of these steps incorrectly.
While there are no legal penalties for refusing to consent a blood test, there are consequences if you refuse, prevent, or obstruct the administration of a test after the officer has obtained a warrant or in those extremely rare cases where there are “exigent circumstances.” First, you can be charged with a separate crime for refusing, preventing, or obstructing a blood test. This is true even if blood was ultimately drawn by force. Second, a refusal to submit to a blood test, whether or not it was subsequently drawn by force, could result in a loss of your driver’s license for one year. If the person who refused has a prior DUI conviction or if the driver was involved in an accident with serious injury, the penalty is a two-year suspension. If the driver refused a blood test after being involved in an accident that killed someone, the penalty is loss of license for five years. Again, however, there are no consequences or legal penalties if you simply refuse an officer’s request for a blood test.
Are you facing a charge of DUI or refusing a blood draw? Knox Defense can help.