On February 18, 2019, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a portion of Georgia's DUI law by ruling that a driver's refusal to take a breathalyzer test cannot be used against him or her in court.
The justices determined that using that refusal in court as evidence violates the Georgia Constitution's protections against self-incrimination. In that same decision, the Supreme Court upheld its previous ruling that forcing drivers to take breath tests is unconstitutional.
The Court acknowledged that this will make it more difficult for law enforcement to handle suspected DUI cases, but held that the Court cannot change the Georgia Constitution or state law. In doing so, the Court upheld the constitutional rights of individuals against self-incrimination, a protection that is long overdue in the area of DUI.
Impact of the Ruling
The impact of this ruling on DUI cases is massive. Previously, prosecutors used a person's refusal against him or her as evidence that the person was intoxicated, in violation of a Georgia driver's constitutional rights. This better protects the rights of individuals in the state.
Now, when a person refuses to take a breath test, police will instead have to get a warrant to take blood or urine tests, which are required to be performed at appropriate medical facilities. What this means will vary significantly from county to county.
Where Tests Will Take Place
Depending on the county, the tests will take place in different locations:
- approved medical facilities;
- labs; or
- at the police station or jail if an appropriate medical location is part of the building.
This will cause inconvenience to law enforcement but is necessary to protect the rights of individuals accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The Implied Consent Notice
The Georgia implied consent notice has long been part of the DUI landscape in the state. Included in that notice, was a warning that refusal to submit to the breath test could be used against the driver in his or her criminal trial. That warning is no longer constitutional.
In fact, many local police departments have recently been encouraged not to read the old implied consent notice until the issue is clarified. Whether individual departments will still read the notice or a modified version of it, is unclear at this time.
What This Will Mean
In all likelihood, there will be a significant increase in the number of warrants requested for blood and urine tests on suspected DUI drivers. Unlike the breath test, there is no refusing a blood or urine test without legal consequences. The results of a blood or urine test may still be used against a driver in a criminal trial.
Officers will also still be able to testify about other observable traits that indicate intoxication, such as:
- slurred speech;
- inability to stand;
- trouble balancing;
- bloodshot eyes;
- odor of alcohol or drugs; or
- open containers or presence of drugs in vehicle.
Consult a Fulton County DUI Attorney
If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI in Georgia, an experienced Fulton County DUI attorney can defend your case and protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.