A recent ruling by Georgia’s Supreme Court restricts a prosecutor from using a motorist’s refusal to perform a roadside breath test as evidence of impairment. An individual suspected of driving under the influence may now refuse to submit to a voluntary breath test without fear of a prosecutor using the refusal as evidence to convict.
The State Supreme Court decision, however, does not provide motorists with the ability to refuse blood testing without facing legal consequences. As reported by WRCBtv, a law enforcement official may now request a warrant from the local court magistrate when a motorist under arrest has refused to submit a blood sample.
When the arresting officer obtains a warrant, an individual must allow a health care professional to draw blood so that a lab technician may perform a test to determine his or her blood alcohol content. The blood results may provide sufficient evidence for a prosecutor to obtain a DUI conviction.
Fifth Amendment right
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects an individual from self-incrimination, which includes making voluntary verbal statements. Because breath is part of an individual’s vocal tract, he or she may verbally assert his or her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to voluntarily blow into a breath test device.
Blood, however, is not part of an individual’s vocal or breathing tract. Refusing to submit to a blood test is not a constitutional right protected under the Fifth Amendment. Driving on Georgia’s public roads also serves as an implied consent to submit to a blood test when requested. A prosecutor may use an individual’s refusal to provide a blood sample as evidence of impairment when pursuing a DUI conviction.
Probable cause requirement
When requesting a warrant to demand that a motorist submit his or her blood sample for testing, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause of impairment. Swerving, striking objects or passing out behind the wheel may provide evidence that a motorist could be driving while impaired.