When someone is pulled over by a police officer on suspicion of DUI, it can be difficult for that driver to determine whether he is required to perform a breathalyzer test. The answer depends on the state in which the person is driving. Some states, like Tennessee, have implied consent laws. Implied consent means that, as a condition of getting a driver’s license in that state, a person agrees to submit to a certain level of testing by the police.
In Tennessee, a driver who refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test can be charged with a misdemeanor, and the punishment will typically be a one-year suspension of the driver’s license. However, in order to show that a driver’s refusal to submit to a breathalyzer was unlawful, the police officer has to show that he or she had probable cause to think that the driver was intoxicated. If the officer did not have a good reason to make a traffic stop in the first place, this could be a defense to a charge of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer.
A police officer must have even stronger grounds, such as a search warrant, to force a driver to take a blood test. Some drivers may refuse to take a breathalyzer because they think their blood alcohol content will be lower if they wait to take a blood test, but this can be a risky game, particularly when a driver is legally required to take a breathalyzer.
Though drivers may be required to take breathalyzers in Tennessee, they are not required to answer questions that may be used to charge them with a DUI. Drivers should always be polite to the police, but it is acceptable for someone to tell a police officer that he or she does not want to answer any questions without first talking to a criminal defense attorney.