Just last month, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on an important distinction between complying with implied consent laws during DUI stops and actual "free and voluntary" consent. In its decision, the court ruled that drivers who consent to a blood test during DUI do so because they are compelled by potential penalties—not genuine consent. When this is the case, the test can be considered a violation of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.
As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports , the legal community has yet to see how the decision will affect DUI law—the decision's implications are still being reviewed-- but many are bracing for big changes. Professor of government at the University of North Carolina Shea Denning told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "This could be a huge decision." Even the attorney who filed the suit that yielded the ruling says few of his peers thought his assertions would be recognized. "Some lawyers and judges looked at me cross-eyed. They said I was crazy," said the lawyer, Lance Tyler.
Georgia's implied consent law has been in place since the 1960s and, like in many other states, has allowed law enforcement to quickly measure suspected drivers' blood alcohol content. The law itself has gone through several significant revisions:
- In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that DUI stops could be considered an "emergency" because a driver's metabolism could be processing the alcohol in his/her system and, thus, is destroying evidence. This was reversed in 2013.
- In 2005, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the law did not allow for law enforcement to seek a warrant when drivers refused a blood test. That ruling was reversed the following year.
Imagining a New, Revised Law
In the short term, warrants will be key for officers to compel drivers to take a DUI blood test, but if the Georgia Supreme Court decision prompts a revision of the law—like many predict—warrants may be the future for securing DUI chemical test results from drivers.
Speaking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Frank Rotondo, sounded optimistic about any new obstacles for DUI enforcement. He noted that there are already existing systems in development which would allow for officers to request and receive warrants electronically, right on the road. As Rotondo notes: "All [court] decisions that seem not to favor law enforcement make us get better and make cases tighter."
If you have been charged with a DUI and need counsel that has a grip on current DUI law, then it is time you contact the Willis Law Firm today. Our legal team has kept our finger on the pulse of this issue since the decision was announced while other firms are still failing to address it on behalf of their clients.