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Georgia Supreme Court Declines to Address Constitutional Problems with DUI Implied Consent Law


Like most states, Georgia has an “implied consent” law that conditions a person’s right to drive on submitting to a chemical test if they are lawfully arrested on suspicion of DUI. A police officer will warn a DUI suspect that their refusal to submit to such testing can be introduced as evidence against them at trial. The suspect also faces the administrative suspension of their driver’s license separate from any criminal prosecution.

Trial Court Must Consider Motion to Suppress for a Third Time

Georgia’s courts have long struggled with the inherent conflict between the constitutional rights of DUI suspects and the heavy-handed approach of the implied consent law. The Georgia Supreme Court recently declined an opportunity to clarify the situation. In State v. Randall, the Court decided for a second time to undo a trial court’s suppression of evidence related to a DUI suspect’s refusal to submit to a blood test.

The underlying facts of the case are simple. In April 2021, a police officer observed the defendant committing a traffic violation. The officer initiated a traffic stop. During the stop, the officer said he observed signs of the defendant’s intoxication–glassy eyes, the smell of alcohol, etc.–and placed the defendant under arrest. The officer then read Georgia’s implied consent warning and asked the defendant to submit to a blood test. The defendant refused.

Before the trial court, the defendant moved to prevent prosecutors from telling the jury about his refusal to submit to the blood test. The defense argued this violated the defendant’s constitutional right to due process. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. Specifically, the judge concluded that Georgia’s implied consent law had a “chilling effect” on a defendant’s exercise of their right to refuse a warrantless search.

In 2022, the Supreme Court reversed the judge’s ruling, holding that the trial judge should not have addressed the defendant’s constitutional argument without first determining whether the defendant’s refusal was admissible under the rules of evidence in criminal trials. After a second hearing, the trial court again granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. But once again, the judge focused on the constitutional issue rather than the rules of evidence.

This prompted the Supreme Court to reverse the judge a second time. The Supreme Court explained that judges should basically not jump to deciding constitutional challenges when they can resolve the same issue under the rules of evidence. Here, the rules state a trial court can exclude evidence that might be unduly prejudicial towards the defendant. The judge therefore needs to rule on this point before deciding the entire implied consent law is unconstitutional.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

This back-and-forth between the Supreme Court and the trial court illustrate how problematic the implied consent law has become in Georgia. It also shows that if you do exercise your right to refuse a warrantless blood test, you need to work with a Georgia Board-certified DUI lawyer who is up-to-date on the law in this area. 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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