DUI Testing is Under Investigation/ Scrutiny

June 4th, 2015

The implied consent on DUI stops in Georgia, is now in question after the State Supreme Court's latest ruling,  and are likely to look different from now on thanks to the State Supreme Court overturning the many long years of law by saying that an arresting officer cannot necessarily obtain a blood sample without a warrant, even if the driver consents.

It's a bit confusing at first glance.  In a DUI stop the officer tells you that you will lose your license for a year unless you submit to a blood-alcohol test.  What the Georgia courts have said is that even if you consent, you may not have done so freely because of the 'fear of loss of the license.'  And if you haven't freely and voluntarily consented, the Constitution requires that the officer get a search warrant.  This decision is likely to keep Georgia judges very busy issuing warrants to allow a blood test for drugs or the alcohol test in DUI cases.  This could tie up the court system in DUI cases for years to come.

Some saw this coming.  In the 1960s most states had laws that said anyone who drives on public roads has given their 'implied consent' to be tested for drugs or alcohol, if a police officer has probable cause to believe that they're driving under the influence.  Georgia's law, like most other states, allows a suspect to refuse, but with the penalty of losing their license for a year.  The Constitution's guarantee against 'unreasonable searches and seizures,' however, demands something very different.  The courts have held that the police cannot search either a person's home or body without a warrant, except in certain very well defined circumstances, mainly that the person 'freely and voluntarily' consent to the search.  Only in recent years has this presented more tension filled encounters. 

These laws have been examined to death, along with the question, 'is a DUI stop really an emergency,' as one new ruling implies.  Some stops have been made on people who are on pain killers and high concentration of prescription meds, which then involves if the person's rights have been violated.  One thing is for sure, the time spent waiting for warrant diminishes the effects of the drugs or alcohols and then makes it more difficult to prosecute.  But even if the result of the recent ruling is that warrants are required in most cases, we will soon see jurisdictions where on-call judges could issue electronic warrant applications from officers in the field.  Rights will be challenged, and even the process will be challenged.

Where is all of this technology taking us?