You are driving home after a casual night out. Just minutes from arriving home, you spot red and blue lights behind your car. Nervous, you pull over. Now with thoughts racing through your head, you wonder whether you should consent to taking a breath test.
Georgia's implied consent law stated that drivers consent to cooperating with law enforcement officials and taking roadside tests. However, a recent decision by the Georgia Supreme Court has dramatically affected the state’s DUI law. This decision affects both the approach of police officers and the decisions of drivers in DUI stops.
Changes to the implied consent law
Previously, a driver’s refusal to consent to a breath test during a DUI stop could work against them as evidence in criminal court proceedings. The refusal could lead to steeper penalties. However, the court ruled that such a law violates the constitutional rights of drivers against self-incrimination.
What this means for drivers
Drivers now have the option to consider several items when deciding whether to consent to a breath test:
- The test could be unreliable due to many factors, including whether the test was properly administered and whether you have certain health issues
- Refusing to take the test can still have consequences for your driver’s license
- Taking the test could produce results that indicate a higher blood alcohol content (BAC) level than in reality
- The police officer could still obtain a warrant to collect blood or urine samples from you
Refusing to take a breath test no longer works against drivers in criminal court, where prosecutors seek potential penalties of jail time, fines, probation time and more. However, this could still affect your ability to retain your driver’s license.
Georgia drivers have ten days after an arrest to request an administrative hearing to avoid the suspension of their driver’s license. However, refusing to take a breath test can lead to an automatic suspension while your criminal case is pending.
More changes could be on the way
These changes dramatically adjust DUI law. Yet, more changes could follow. After the ruling in February, prosecutors immediately instructed police officers to seek warrants to obtain blood or urine tests in lieu of depending on breath tests. These tests can be more difficult to facilitate, especially in rural Georgia communities. The court is expected to convene to address these issues and potentially make further changes.