Georgia Law Enforcement Changes DUI Policy

Ted Morgan Law

Georgia police agencies are changing their DUI policies in response to a ruling from the Supreme Court of Georgia earlier this year regarding an individual’s right to refuse a sobriety test without the state using it as evidence against them in their DUI trial in the case Elliot v. State, 305 Ga 179 (2019).

The U.S. Supreme Court previously held that the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit states from enacting “implied consent” laws that allow prosecutors to use a person’s refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test as evidence against them in a subsequent DUI hearing. However, the Georgia Supreme Court has held that Article I, Section 1, Paragraph XVI of the Georgia State Constitution prohibited admitting evidence that a driver refused to consent to a breathalyzer test.

Because the Georgia Constitution recognizes a broader right than the U.S. Constitution, the state’s constitution controls. As a result, the Georgia Supreme Court in Elliot held that Georgia’s implied consent laws were unconstitutional to the extent that it allowed the state to use their refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test as adverse evidence in their DUI trial.

What Is Implied Consent?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 1, Paragraph XIII of the Georgia Constitution, the police may not conduct unreasonable searches and seizures of a person, their house, papers, and effects. Police need a warrant supported by probable cause before they can legally search someone. However, courts have held that the police do not need a warrant to search a person’s car if the driver or owner voluntarily consents to the search.

Under state implied consent laws, a driver’s consent to chemical sobriety tests is implied by driving on the state’s roads and highways. Nevertheless, a driver still has the right to refuse to submit to a sobriety test under implied consent laws, because legal police searches require actual consent. While drivers may refuse to submit to a sobriety test, implied consent laws provide that the refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) test can be used as evidence of guilt at the driver’s trial.

Resulting Changes in Police DUI Policies

Historically, police have different ways to gather evidence for a DUI. Field sobriety tests (FSTs) involve drivers performing physical acts so that the police can observe whether their motor coordination is impaired. Chemical tests involving determining the driver’s BAC to establish whether it exceeds the legal limit under DUI laws. The two primary methods of checking a driver’s BAC is using the breathalyzer test or drawing their blood for analysis.

As a result of the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision in Elliot, law enforcement agencies are revising their DUI policies. According to officials, some law enforcement agencies are scaling down or even eliminating FSTs and preliminary breathalyzer tests (PBTs). However, a driver’s refusal to submit to a blood test can be used as evidence against them in a DUI case.

For Legal Advice, Call Ted Morgan Law

If you need legal advice and representation regarding DUI charges, you should seek the professional services of an attorney at Ted Morgan Law. With 25 years of experience, Attorney Ted Morgan has what it takes to help ensure your constitutional due process rights are not infringed by improper law enforcement procedures.

Call Ted Morgan Law at (706) 622-6255 or contact us online today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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