Georgia lawmakers in both houses of the state legislature passed a bill last month that would amend what law enforcement officers can legally tell people detained for suspicion of DUI about their rights regarding a Breathalyzer test. It was sent to Gov. Brian Kemp early this month and now awaits his signature. If he signs it (or if he vetoes it and the legislature overrides his veto), the change will become effective on July 1.
Previously, under Georgia's implied consent laws, if a driver was stopped because an officer suspected them of being under the influence, they were read a statement that said, in part, that if they refused to take a Breathalyzer test, that refusal could be used as evidence against them in court. A similar statement is read to people suspected of boating or hunting while under the influence.
The proposed legislation would amend the language in that statement. The law that allows a person's breath test refusal to be used against them if they're arrested for DUI was determined to be unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court in February of this year. The court ruled that it violated people's right not to incriminate themselves.
Law enforcement officers can still require drivers to submit to blood or urine tests to determine the amount of alcohol (and other substances) in their systems. They can also still request that they take a Breathalyzer test. One state lawmaker, who used to be a law enforcement officer, says, "You'll probably see a lot more agencies go toward the blood test option."
The legislature has given no indication that it will attempt to override the high court's ruling. In order for mandatory Breathalyzer tests to be reinstated, the Georgia Constitution would need to be amended. That would require not just approval by two-thirds of both houses, but a majority of the state's voters.
This may not be the end of changes (or at least proposed changes) to Georgia's DUI laws. Lawmakers say they plan to look at the laws during this session.
If you're facing DUI charges, it's essential to understand the state's current laws and your rights under them. An experienced Georgia DUI attorney can provide valuable information and guidance.