Mt. Juliet and Lebanon TN

One of the worst possible driving offenses is Driving Under the Influence, or DUI. The consequences of being arrested for this offense are so serious that even the prospect of being pulled over for it is terrifying. In the event you ever find yourself in this position, however, it is helpful to know what to expect and what you should do. Knowledge is power and can prevent drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence from finding themselves in even more hot water.

The flashing lights

Blue lights are usually the first indication a car is being pulled over; they’re police officers’ signals for suspects to slow their vehicles and pull off the side of the road. In this situation, it is critically important to stop at a safe location and obey all traffic laws in the process. The reason the officer is making the stop is because s/he already has reason to suspect the driver is impaired. Being reckless while pulling over will add to that suspicion.

Gathering further information

Once safely stopped, the driver should put down anything s/he is holding, lower the window enough to allow for communication and handing over documents and place his or her hands on the steering wheel. If time permits before the officer arrives at the window, it is best to gather the driver’s license and registration so that they can be easily reached and passed to the officer.

The motorist should not make any sudden movements as the officer is approaching. If the officer asks for a license and registration, tell him or her where the documents are and share the precise actions you’re about to take to retrieve them. Once the documents have been passed, be polite but don’t answer any questions that might be incriminating. A polite refusal to answer such questions is within motorists’ rights and cannot legally be taken as an admission of wrongdoing.

Field sobriety and breathalyzer

Once the officer has reviewed the license and registration, if s/he believes the driver is impaired, s/he may request him or her to submit to a field sobriety and/or breathalyzer test. It is not mandatory under Tennessee law to submit to a field sobriety test, and these can be refused without adverse consequences. Since many reasons exist that a person might fail one of these tests regardless of their level of intoxication – age, excessive weight or leg problems, for instance – and since “passing” one would not necessarily get a motorist out of a DUI, it might be in a driver’s best interest to refuse a field sobriety test.

Breathalyzer tests are a different story. These, too, can be refused but not without fairly profound consequences. The Implied Consent Law in Tennessee means that any motorist will automatically agree to a chemical test, and refusal to submit to one will result in the loss of a driver’s license for a year (assuming this is the first offense and no accident is involved).


Assuming the officer is not convinced of the driver’s sobriety, s/he may take further action, including potentially asking to search the vehicle. The motorist can deny the officer’s request. While the officer may search the vehicle anyway, anything s/he discovers might be inadmissible in court.

The officer may also take the motorist into custody. This is an especially likely outcome in the event of the breathalyzer showing a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of greater than .08 percent. This is the legal limit in Tennessee, though that number is lower for commercial drivers (.04 percent) and individuals below 21 years old (.02 percent).

Even if the test shows a BAC below the legal limit, the officer is not obligated to let the driver go. Since the breathalyzer tests for alcohol but not drugs, the officer may demand the driver be tested for drugs at the police station. Refusing such a chemical test carries the same consequences as refusing a breathalyzer. Furthermore, since the hand-held breathalyzer is not as accurate as the device at the police station, the officer may demand another breathalyzer be administered once at the station.


Finally, the officer can hold the motorist regardless of the results of chemical tests and can argue in court that the test was administered too late after the consumption of alcohol or too soon to show its full effects.

The officer relies on the totality of the interaction to show grounds for detaining a driver, which includes such components as:

  • The motorist’s driving behavior before the stop
  • The execution of the stop itself
  • Answers (or lack therof) to questions
  • The driver’s demeanor (politeness or rudeness, nervousness or calmness, even cheerfulness can all arouse suspicion)
  • Performance on a field sobriety test, if taken
  • Results of a vehicle’s search, if performed

If the driver is being held, s/he may expect to be held the entire day (or longer, if the motorist is taken in on a Friday night; in that case, the stay may last an entire weekend).


If all these circumstances result in DUI charges, it is in the driver’s best interest to immediately seek qualified legal counsel. A good defense attorney will go far to protect the rights of anyone charged with DUI.


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