A CLOSER LOOK: New Georgia DUI ruling

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The Georgia Supreme Court overturns a law that allowed a driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer to be used as evidence against them. The court agreed on Monday that it violates the state’s constitutional protection against self-incrimination.

One justice says the decision could make it more difficult to prosecute DUI offenses. The decision stems from a 2015 DUI arrest where a woman in Clarke County was pulled over for erratic driving. That woman refused and was taken to jail.

But with this ruling, prosecutors will be barred from using this information in court.

“So many people are shocked when they hear, oh I don’t have to do those tests. Because Georgia law requires the officer to say, “Georgia law requires you to submit to testing,” Criminal Defense Attorney, Douglas Andrews says.

That could soon change with the new ruling. Prosecutors are no longer allowed to take a breathalyzer into evidence.

“If the right is not to incriminate yourself then there shouldn’t be an exception under the DUI law,” Andrews says. But if you refuse, your license can be suspended for a year.

Andrews has worked on DUI cases since the ’90s. He says the biggest issue is not applying the constitution to DUI’s because they’re viewed as a big problem.

According to the Georgia Office of Driver Services, in 2017 there were more than 20,000 DUI convictions and more than 10,000 drivers had their licenses suspended after refusing a breathalyzer test. “They have to prove you’re impaired why should you have to prove you’re over the limit,” Andrews said.

He said it doesn’t change things, it complicates them.”If they read you Miranda because they want a confession from you and you to say I’m going to exercise my right to remain silent, they can tell a jury that upon you being Mirandized that you decline. that’s not allowed. Because it’s an inference of guilt. But they allowed it for the past 25 years in DUI cases,” Andrews says.

Under the new ruling when a driver refuses, police will need a warrant to take a blood or urine test, which could take hours.  A director with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police says he expects officers to adjust, document other needed evidence for the prosecution, and try to build a case without solely relying on a breathalyzer.

Since this ruling is still new there is a lot of uncertainty whether those convicted of a DUI can appeal or if the ruling affects pending prosecutions.

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