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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > DUI > Do Police Need Separate Warrants to Test for Alcohol and Drugs in a Georgia DUI Case?

Do Police Need Separate Warrants to Test for Alcohol and Drugs in a Georgia DUI Case?


There is more than one way to commit a DUI in Georgia. Although we commonly associate DUI with drunk driving, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol is just one way to break the law. It is also illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of “any drug” to the extent it renders the driver “less safe for the person to drive.” This can include prescription and over-the-counter medications, not just illegal drugs.

Georgia Courts Suppress Results of Warrantless Drug Test

If Georgia law enforcement suspects drugged driving, they must follow the same constitutional safeguards as in cases where they suspect drunk driving. In other words, they need to obtain a search warrant if the suspect does not consent to a blood draw or other chemical test for the presence of drugs in their system.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed this principle in a decision, State v. de la Paz, affirming a trial judge’s ruling to suppress evidence gathered from a warrantless drug test of a suspect’s blood. The facts of this case were fairly straightforward. A sheriff’s deputy conducted a traffic stop of the defendant. During the stop, the deputy observed possible signs of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol on the defendant’s breath.

The defendant admitted to drinking alcohol earlier in the evening. After administering a field sobriety test, the deputy arrested the defendant on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. When the defendant refused to submit to a blood test, the deputy applied for a search warrant. The warrant application explicitly stated the defendant was under suspicion of driving “under the influence of alcohol.”

A magistrate issued the search warrant. But when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) tested the defendant’s blood sample, it turned out his blood-alcohol content was below the legal limit in Georgia. GBI then re-tested the blood for the presence of drugs and found the “presence of a muscle relaxer” in the defendant’s system, according to court records. Prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with DUI, less safe, due to both alcohol and drugs.

As previously mentioned, the trial court suppressed the results of the blood test for drugs. The judge held that testing the defendant’s blood for drugs “exceeded the scope of the search warrant.” Prosecutors appealed the ruling.

But the Court of Appeals also sided with the defendant. The appellate court noted the deputy specifically applied for a search warrant based on an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, not drugs. Indeed, the deputy’s application specifically requested the defendant’s blood be drawn and tested for alcohol. There was no mention of drug testing. So the state could not use the result of any drug testing of the blood to prove the defendant committed DUI.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

Police and prosecutors often take shortcuts when it comes to pursuing people suspected of DUI in Georgia. If you are the person facing jail time, however, you do not have to accept such misconduct. Our Georgia Board-certified DUI lawyers can review your arrest and advise you of your rights under the law. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.



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