Under previous Georgia law, if a driver suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol refused to submit to a chemical test, that refusal could be used against the defendant in court as evidence of his or her guilt. That is no longer the case thanks to the Georgia Supreme Court. These changes greatly enhance the protections Georgia drivers are granted.
If you or someone you care for has been arrested and charged with DUI in Georgia, an experienced Georgia DUI defense attorney can defend your case and protect your constitutional rights. Just because you are charged with a crime does not mean you are guilty.
Refusal of a Blood, Urine, or Breath Test
In Georgia, every driver is subject to the implied consent law, which requires all drivers to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test at the request of a law enforcement officer. This "implied consent" applies to all drivers on Georgia roads, whether they are Georgia residents are not.
Penalties for refusal include an extended driver's license suspension and other penalties. Further, people often confuse the roadside breathalyzer, which you can refuse without penalty, with the breath test back at the station, for which there are penalties set for refusal. While there are penalties associated with refusal, one that no longer applies is the refusal's use as evidence against you at trial.
Use of Refusal as Evidence
For many years, if a person refused to consent to a blood, urine, or breath test his or her refusal could be used by the prosecutor as evidence that the person knew he or she was intoxicated and that is why the person refused to take the test. This evidence was often used when law enforcement officers were unable to get much other evidence of intoxication, other than the result of field sobriety tests and any personal observations.
This type of evidence is no longer admissible in a DUI trial in Georgia. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled, unanimously, that the Georgia Constitution protects against self-incrimination. The Supreme Court held that using evidence that a person refused to consent to the test constituted a violation of a person's 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
This new holding applies only to the criminal case, not to the administrative hearing. The administrative hearing for a driver's license suspension is not actually a criminal case, but a civil one. Because of this, use of the refusal as evidence in the civil case against you does not violate your 5th amendment rights.
Consult an Experienced Georgia DUI Defense Attorney
If you refused to consent to a Georgia blood, breath, or urine test that refusal cannot be used against you in your criminal trial. This gives you better protection under the law than previously existed. When facing DUI charges, you need an attorney who is up to date with changes in Georgia law and understands the impact they have on your criminal case.