What Are the Consequences for Refusing a Blood or Breath Test in a Georgia DUI Case?
Georgia drunk driving cases often center on an accused person’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) at the time of their arrest. Law enforcement may conduct chemical testing of a DUI suspect’s breath or blood to ascertain if their BAC is above the legal limit, which is 0.08 percent in most cases. So what happens if you are the suspect and refuse to submit to such testing?
That is your constitutional right. But there are consequences you need to consider. First, the police can still force you to submit to a test if they subsequently obtain a search warrant. Second, the Georgia Department of Driver Services can suspend your driver’s license even if you are never criminally charged or convicted of DUI. Third, your refusal to submit to testing may be used against you in court at a criminal trial.
Court of Appeals Declines to Consider Constitutional Implications of Georgia Statute
This final consequence is controversial, as it implicates a defendant’s constitutional right to due process and a fair trial. Yet so far, Georgia appellate courts have largely avoided addressing this subject. For example, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently declined to consider the constitutionality of the state’s implied consent law in an appeal of a drunk driving conviction.
The case before the Court of Appeals, Garrison v. State, involved a female defendant convicted by a jury of multiple DUI and traffic offenses. The case originated with a November 2018 single-vehicle accident involving the defendant’s truck. Law enforcement responded to the scene of the accident and found the defendant’s truck crashed into a utility pole, causing the pole to snap in half.
A sheriff’s deputy administered a field sobriety test to the defendant. Based on those results, the deputy placed the defendant under arrest on suspicion of DUI and read the required notice of Georgia’s “implied consent” law with respect to chemical testing. The defendant refused to submit to chemical testing.
At the subsequent trial, the judge instructed the jury that it could “infer the presence of alcohol and drugs” in the defendant’s system from her refusal to submit to testing. The jury proceeded to find the defendant guilty. On appeal, she argued this instruction violated her constitutional right to due process.
The Court of Appeals declined to address this argument directly. Instead, it held the defendant failed to properly object to this specific jury instruction at trial. Normally, if a defendant fails to make an objection at trial, the issue is not considered “preserved” for appeal. The appellate court can still grant relief, however, if there was “plain error” in the trial court’s decision. But here, the Court of Appeals said there was no plain error, in part because the Georgia Supreme Court has yet to definitely rule on whether or not the implied consent law violates a defendant’s constitutional rights.
Contact the Georgia DUI Defense Lawyers at Hawkins Spizman Today
It is likely only a matter of time before an appeal forces the Georgia Supreme Court or Court of Appeals to decide this vital issue. In the meantime, the continued enforcement of Georgia’s implied consent law has significant consequences for anyone accused of drunk driving. Our Georgia Board Certified DUI Attorneys can represent you in a criminal proceeding. Contact Hawkins Spizman 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.