Georgia Supreme Court Ruling May Change DUI Procedures

A Georgia Supreme Court ruling will likely change how prosecutors and law enforcement officials have to handle driving under the influence cases. The new ruling says that portions of the DUI statutes for the state violate the Georgia Constitution Protections against a person incriminating him or herself. This means that procedures will have to be changed.

The recent Georgia Supreme Court ruling came in Elliott v. The State and ruled that when a defendant refuses to take a breathalyzer test, that refusal can not be used against the person as evidence during the trial. Justice Peterson ruled that although there may be good reason to change the Georgia Constitution, the court can not rule against it.

How Will the New Law Affect Prosecutors and Law Enforcement?

If a person consents to the breathalyzer test, the deputy will have to read that person’s Miranda Rights, but if a person declines, the law enforcement officer would have to request a warrant from the judge to obtain a blood or urine test. Such a test may also lead to additional findings.

For example, although the officer may have originally stopped the person under the suspicion of drunk driving, a blood test may not only reveal alcohol in his or her blood but could also find marijuana or other drugs if the suspect had been using them earlier, as well.

Law enforcement officials in Georgia are waiting on the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia to advise them of what steps should be taken under the new ruling. In some situations, a blood or urine test will be able to be performed at the jail, but in other situations, law enforcement officials will have to take the driver to a local hospital. This may also require police to have to knock on judges’ doors in the middle of the night to get a warrant. It is important to know, however, that if you refuse a breathalyzer test, your driver’s license can still be taken because it is part of administrative procedure rather than criminal procedure.

What About Blood and Urine Testing?

The ruling enforced that forcing a person to take a breathalyzer test constituted forcing that person to conduct an incriminating act. However, the ruling will not apply to urine and blood tests because these do not require the driver to perform an action. Instead, they simply require the person to have their urine or blood drawn.

The dilemma that the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police says the ruling has caused is that in rural areas particularly it could take longer to get a warrant. During the waiting period, the suspect’s body will metabolize alcohol which means that by the time the test is performed, he or she may no longer be intoxicated.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it can result in serious penalties making it imperative that you contact an attorney as quickly as possible. The attorneys at Lankford & Moore Law will ensure that your rights are protected. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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