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Reviewing Tennessee’s implied consent law

Like most in Clarksville, your introduction to the state’s DUI laws likely only comes after you have been arrested and charged with such a crime. That is why many come to us here at Runyon and Runyon surprised after having automatically faced criminal penalties for refusing to submit to field sobriety tests. You may believe that it is well within your rights to refuse such tests, or that you at least may be able to wait to do them after having spoken to a lawyer. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Most states adhere to the idea of an "implied consent" law. Tennessee is no exception. In Section 55-10-406 of the state's Annotated Code, it states that by driving a vehicle, you are deemed as having automatically given consent to submit to either blood, breath or urine testing in order to determine your sobriety. However, one important aspect of Tennessee's implied consent law is that law enforcement officers must have probable cause in order to invoke it.

What does this mean? An officer must first have reason to suspect that you are impaired or intoxicated before forcing you to submit to chemical testing. Indicators that could prompt such suspicion may include:

  • Your driving on the wrong side of the road or having difficulty staying in your lane
  • An officer detecting the smell of alcohol on your breath
  • There being open and/or empty alcohol containers in your car

On the other hand, your being stopped for speeding just over the legal limit, having a tail light out, or even at a routine sobriety checkpoint may not automatically meet the standard of warranting probable cause. More information on defending yourself from DUI charges can be found here on our site.

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