People accused of drunk driving in Tennessee no longer face additional charges if they refuse a blood alcohol test.
Tennessee lawmakers say they were forced to pass a new drunk driving law after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that implied-consent laws were unconstitutional, saying that states cannot criminalize a DUI suspect’s refusal to submit to a forensic test.
The new law took effect July 1 and has the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving charging that the rights of drunk drivers are being considered above those of victims.
Phaedra Marriott-Olsen, an underage drinking specialist with MADD in Tennessee, is a survivor of an incident with a drunk driver.
“It comes down to this – that drunk driver made two choices,” she states. “The first choice he made was to drink, and the second choice he made was to drive – so, when it comes to drunk driving, the ability to be able to just find a shortcut out of it or an easy way to get out if it, is not what we need to be doing.”
Drivers in all 50 states can still have their licenses revoked for refusing to take a blood-alcohol test, but can’t face additional fines or jail time.
Marriott-Olsen is now wheelchair-bound and says that as a result of the incident that injured her, she faces ongoing medical problems.
“I live it every single day of my life,” she states. “Every time I look at my scars, every time I look at my wheelchair, every time I push myself up a hill, I’m reminded how a drunk driver changed my life in just one instant.”
Tennessee faced the potential loss of federal revenue if the state didn’t change its law. Currently, drivers must either give consent for a blood test, or a warrant must be obtained.