In Georgia, you cannot refuse a breathalyzer test without facing legal penalties. Georgia is an implied consent law state. This means that anyone driving on a Georgia road has given implied consent to follow the orders and requests of police officers if the police officer has reasonable cause to believe you have been drinking.
However, this does not mean that you have no rights. It just means that if you refuse a breathalyzer test, you will be arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI). If you have been charged with DUI, whether you took a breathalyzer test or not, you have rights worth protecting. To help you, speak with a lawyer right away.
What Is Implied Consent?
If you have a Georgia driver’s license or a valid license from any other state and you are driving in Georgia, you have given the state implied consent that you will submit to a breathalyzer test if a police officer has reasonable cause to believe you have been drinking. Can you refuse? Yes, but you will face consequences. If the police officer believes they have a strong reasonable suspicion that you are above the legal limit, they can arrest you and charge you with DUI, even though you have not taken a breathalyzer test.
Under Georgia law, you also do not have a right to consult with a lawyer until after you have been arrested. Since you are not under arrest and because Georgia courts have held that the decision to take a breathalyzer test is not a critical stage of the criminal process, you do not have the right to a lawyer. Only after you have been arrested do you have the absolute right to legal counsel.
What Are the Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test?
If you refuse the breathalyzer test, you can be arrested and charged with DUI. This is one of the mandatory penalties under Georgia law that you will face if you do not follow the officer’s request.
You will also lose your driver’s license. You will receive a thirty-day permit allowing you to drive. During that time, you must request a hearing to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license. If you do not, you will lose your license for one year. The length of this suspension grows with every subsequent DUI charge.
When you get pulled over for suspected impaired driving, the police officer may request that you take a breathalyzer test. If you refuse, before arresting you and charging you with a DUI, the police officer must inform you of the penalties for refusing to take a breathalyzer. Georgia law requires officers to inform people because most are not aware of the penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test.
If the police officer does not inform you of the penalties under Georgia law, you may have a valid reason to challenge the penalties that happened after you refused a breathalyzer. This could mean that the DUI charge and arrest could be thrown out and your driver’s license could be reinstated at the hearing.
However, to ensure your rights are protected, you must have a trusted legal advocate working with you. Going through this process is not simple and requires deep knowledge of the legal system and relevant Georgia laws.
A Changing Standard
Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that a driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test cannot be used against them. Prior to this ruling, if you refused to take a breathalyzer test, that fact could be used against you in court to add to the evidence showing that you were driving drunk. Today, however, that can no longer happen.
This does not mean that if you refuse a breathalyzer test after a police officer pulls you over that you suddenly get to drive away. In many cases, a breathalyzer test is the final step a police officer takes before making an arrest. Prior to that, the police officer will probably ask a driver to walk a straight line, count backwards, say the alphabet, and do other field sobriety tests approved by law enforcement.
Similarly, this new standard does not remove Georgia’s implied consent law. By driving on Georgia roads, all drivers give their implied consent to being pulled over and questioned, including the use of field sobriety tests. These measures help to keep everyone on Georgia roadways safe. However, your refusal to take a breathalyzer test will not prevent you from getting arrested and charged with DUI if the police officer has reasonable cause. If you do not voluntarily consent to a breathalyzer test, you can still be arrested and charged with DUI under Georgia law.
You have the right to request an independent test at your own expense, but you can only request an independent test if you did not refuse the test from the police officer. In other words, there has to be a test comparison, but the tests do not have to be identical. You can submit to a breathalyzer test at the scene but can have a blood test done at your expense.
The arresting police officer must allow you to get an independent test. Your request must be reasonable. A request for an independent test may be reasonable if:
- You have the ability to pay for the independent test.
- The location of the facility you selected for your test was nearby.
- The police did not delay giving you access to an independent test.
Since alcohol runs through the body fairly quickly, time is of the essence so any blocking by the officer could give you additional support to toss out your DUI arrest. If the police officer did not allow you the ability to have an independent test done in a reasonable amount of time, your lawyer may be able to get the breathalyzer test removed from evidence.
It is critical to have a lawyer if you have been arrested for DUI. Navigating the legal process requires a keen eye for detail and an intimate understanding of Georgia’s DUI laws. This is not something to handle on your own, especially when you could lose your right to drive for a minimum of one year.
A skilled Georgia lawyer will be able to tell quickly if the laws and processes were followed. If not, that can be a quick route to reducing or eliminating the charges against you. Not only does this save you the hassle and embarrassment of a DUI charge, but it also ensures that your driver’s license remains intact, and you have the ability to drive to and from work and all your other important life events.
There are many ways the police could have violated your rights during the field sobriety test and DUI arrest. The only way to know for sure what rights have been violated and how to take action to protect yourself is by partnering with a trusted lawyer.
Effingham County DUI Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Will Protect Your Rights After a DUI Arrest
A DUI charge can lead to a possible license suspension, leaving you without a way to get to work. To make sure your rights are protected, speak with our Effingham County DUI lawyers at Kicklighter Law. To learn more about how we can help you, call us at 912-754-6003 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.