In all states including Georgia, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In Georgia, driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense. If you are convicted of a DUI, you may face heavy fines or even jail time. You could also have your license suspended or be required to attend substance abuse programs.
There is a special rule in Georgia called the implied consent law. The law specifies that the act of driving on a Georgia road means that you give an implied consent to take a chemical test to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in your body.
A recent state supreme court ruling and new law have limited some of the actions that police officers can take. However, you may still be required to submit to certain chemical tests if you are suspected of a DUI.
What are the DUI laws in Georgia?
You can be charged with a DUI in Georgia in two ways. First, you could be charged with a DUI per se. This means that you are stopped while driving, and your results from a chemical test show that you were operating a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of over 0.08 percent.
You could also be charged with a DUI if an officer stops you while you are driving and determines by their observation that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the officer makes this conclusion, you can still be arrested and charged with the DUI even if your BAC is lower than 0.08 percent.
The burden of proof is on the arresting officer and the prosecution if you are charged with a DUI. For a DUI per se, the results of your chemical test will be used to show your guilt. If an officer has determined you are under the influence by observation, regardless of your BAC results, evidence that can be used against you includes any failed field sobriety test and the statement of the officer who pulled you over or arrested you. The officer may testify on a variety of factors including why they pulled you over, if they smelled alcohol, if you were breaking traffic laws, or if you could drive safely.
What is Georgia’s implied consent law?
The law is an advanced agreement made by drivers with the state. The agreement is that any driver on a Georgia road has given implied consent to be required to provide a chemical sample on suspicion of a DUI if requested by a police officer. The purpose is to make drivers consent to a chemical test to lower the rates of DUIs in the state.
The types of chemical tests include producing a breath, blood, or urine sample. Saliva samples can also be requested, but this is rare. These samples are required only under certain circumstances. For example, you may be required to submit a sample if you are lawfully arrested for a DUI. You could also be required to provide a sample if you were in a traffic accident that resulted in serious injuries or death.
If you are pulled over for a DUI, the police officer must recite Georgia’s implied consent notice. This notice lets the driver know of the requirement to submit a sample, the possible penalties for refusing, and that the driver has a right to request an additional and independent test. After this notice, the officer needs to ask the driver to agree or refuse to take a chemical sample. Georgia has a mandatory punishment of a one-year license suspension for refusing to take a chemical test when requested.
What are the implications of the court’s ruling and new law?
In 2019, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that parts of the implied consent notice were unconstitutional. The Court held that requiring drivers to submit to a breathalyzer if they were suspected of a DUI violated that person’s constitutional right against self-incrimination. Police can no longer use a driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test against them in court to prove guilt.
After this decision, the state passed a new law regarding implied consent. The law drops the words “required” and “breathalyzer” from the implied consent notice that an officer recites to a driver suspected of a DUI. This means that an officer can still require a driver to submit to a blood or urine test and that the results or refusal to take those tests may still be used against the driver at trial. In practice, officers will more than likely be conducting more in-depth field sobriety tests to prove guilt rather than depending on blood or urine samples.
About the Author: Jim Yeargan is a DUI lawyer in Atlanta, GA and former DUI prosecutor with over 20 years of experience. He has handled thousands of DUI cases throughout his career. For more information, visit https://www.atlantaduilawyer.com/.