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In Georgia, refusing the breathalyzer test can not be used as evidence in trial

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) - A new ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court will have effects on how law enforcement and prosecutors handle DUI cases.

The high court ruled part of the state's DUI law violates the Georgia Constitution Protections against self-incrimination. That means deputies will have to change their procedures.

The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed The Elliott v. The State, a defendant's refusal to take a breathalyzer test can't be used against them as evidence at trial. 

In a statement, Justice Peterson says, "This court cannot change the Georgia Constitution, even if we believe there may be good policy reason for doing so; only the general assembly and the people of Georgia may do that."

How will the new law effect law enforcement and prosecutors?

"We have to adapt," said Chief Lewis Blanchard.

If you consent to the test, the deputy is required to read you your Miranda Rights. If you decline... 

"If the officer can articulate the person is DUI, then they would apply for a warrant from a judge," explained Blanchard. "Then you would take blood from that person whether if they wanted to give it to you or not."

Chief Blanchard says denying the test may lead to other findings.

"If somebody was smoking marijuana a couple of hours earlier that's going to show up in a blood test," said Blanchard. "It might hem them up where is it might not have should they have taken a breathalyzer test."

Chief Blanchard told NewsChannel 6 reporter Devin Johnson, the ruling will make it harder for deputies, but they will continue to do everything to enforce road safety.

"If you're DUI on the streets, you're going to be taken off the streets, you're going to go to jail," explained Blanchard. "We are going to do whatever we have to do to get you convicted under the law."

Law enforcement is waiting on guidelines from the Prosecuting Attorney's Council of Georgia.

It is essential to know if you refuse the breathalyzer test, law enforcement can still take your license because it is considered an administrative procedure instead of a criminal one. 

Photojournalist: Antony Sherrod


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