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What is ‘implied consent’ in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2024 | Criminal Cases & DUI

Many Tennessee drivers have heard the term “implied consent,” but very few understand the meaning of the term or, more importantly, the legal consequences that may follow a violation of the law.

The basics

Under Tennessee law, anyone who drives a car upon the state’s streets and highways has implied their consent to taking certain sobriety tests. The consent refers to the power of law enforcement officers to require any driver suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other behavior altering drug to submit to a chemical breath test or other ways to test sobriety.

The officer directing the tests must have probable cause to believe that the suspect has violated one or more of the state’s laws prohibiting a person who is intoxicated from operating a motor vehicle.

Consequences of refusal

A person who has been directed to take a field sobriety test may refuse the test, but a refusal may justify a court in revoking the defendant’s driving license. Depending upon the suspect’s prior criminal history, including any driving infractions, the driver may receive additional penalties, including a requirement that the driver may only drive a vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device.

The summary suspension of a person’s driver’s license is contingent upon the arresting officer having given the driver a clear verbal statement of the legal consequences of refusing to take the test. If no warning was given, the court has no power to suspend the driver’s license or to impose a requirement for using an ignition interlock device.

The results of the test, regardless of the means of giving the test, are admissible in court to determine if the driver was in fact driving under the influence. As can be seen, the consequences of being asked to take a field sobriety test under the implied consent law can be serious and potentially disruptive of the suspect’s life. An important protection against an unwise admission can be the advice of an attorney knowledgeable about Tennessee’s laws involving drunk driving.