Drivers in Georgia are required to submit to a chemical test if they are suspected of driving while under the influence, but you can refuse to submit to it. Sometimes, though, maybe you were just too intoxicated to refuse even though -- but for that intoxication -- you would have refused. There have been many cases over the last few years where drivers who did consent later argued they were too intoxicated to "actually" consent, thus, hoping to invalidate their test results.
How It Works
If you are arrested for driving while under the influence, a police officer is required to recite Georgia's implied consent notice. It informs you of the testing requirement, the penalties for refusing, and your right to an independent test. The police officer must then obtain your consent to the chemical test before conducting it.
Any failure to give the implied consent notice can result in the inadmissibility of the chemical test findings in court. If you consent to the test, it will then be administered and your license will be subject to an administrative 30-day suspension, with a possible limited suspension in the future. If you refuse to consent to the test, you are subject to a hard suspension of your license for 12 months, meaning you may not even be permitted to drive to work or school during that time.
How It Started
In 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court heard the case of Williams v. State, 296 Ga. 817 (2015). At trial, Williams had attempted to suppress, or have thrown out, the results of his state-administered blood test. He argued that his blood had been obtained without a warrant, which violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, despite the fact that he had consented to the blood draw. Ordinarily, consent to a search (in this case a blood draw) is an exception to the warrant requirement.
Williams argued that he could not freely and voluntarily consent to the blood draw because of his level of intoxication. He also argued that the implied consent set forth in Georgia law was insufficient under the Fourth Amendment and that actual consent was required. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed and ordered the trial court to determine if Williams actually consented to the search.
The trial court later found that Williams was too intoxicated to grant actual consent to the blood draw and his test results were thrown out.
Impact on DUI Cases
The decision in Williams has called into question many other drivers' apparent consent to the test while they were intoxicated. Prosecutors can no longer simply rely on the implied consent rule in determining whether a driver consented to the chemical test or any other search. Judges in multiple Georgia counties have ruled that drivers were too intoxicated to actually consent to the test, including in Fulton, DeKalb and Cherokee Counties.
In many cases, the wording of the alleged consent was the deciding factor. Responses such as "Why not?" or "Whatever you've got to do" were held to be insufficient to qualify as actual consent. In another case, results from a chemical test were thrown out because the driver did not sufficiently understand the English language.
What It Means for You
Every case is unique, and a highly qualified Georgia DUI Attorney can help you understand the facts of your situation. Never assume you are guilty if you have been charged with a DUI. Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.