In February, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down part of Georgia's DUI Law by declaring that a driver's refusal to take a breathalyzer test cannot be used against them at trial.
The unanimous court found that using a driver's refusal to submit to a breathalyzer against them violated the protections against self-incrimination found in the Georgia Constitution. This ruling sparked House Bill 471, which Georgia legislators drafted to correct the language police officers read to drivers pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. Before the Georgia Supreme Court's decision, a police officer would tell the driver that the breathalyzer test could be used against them in a future criminal case. This is now considered a violation of the Georgia Constitution. In order to reinstate mandatory breathalyzer tests, it would require a constitutional amendment. Amending the constitution would require two-thirds majority votes by both the House and Senate, followed by approval from a majority of Georgia voters.
The Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 471, and Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill into law in April. While an officer can still mandate blood and urine tests, they can only ask drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test voluntarily.
Chemical Sobriety Tests in Dekalb County
As a Dekalb County DUI Attorney, I am very familiar with all types of sobriety tests and know that no method of testing is 100% accurate.
Several variables can affect the results of breath tests – this can be anything from blood in the mouth causing a false reading, to your temperature (such as when you have a fever), to other variables related to the machine itself. Both blood and urine tests each have their own set of problems that can be investigated by an experienced DUI lawyer.
What many drivers don't realize is that refusal to submit to a blood alcohol content test is a punishable offense – the main penalty for a refusal is not jail, but an extended license suspension. Drivers also may not realize that the test they are supposed to submit must be conducted at a police station rather than the side of the road.
Furthermore, if the Georgia breath test is administered on the side of the road, it will be considered a field sobriety test as it was taken while the officer was out in the “field.” This confusion has led to many refusal charges – drivers often assume that because they submitted to the breathalyzer test on the side of the road, they won't need to take another one at the station, leading them to sometimes refuse.