The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear a case involving criminal charges for DUI test refusals and the Fourth Amendment.
After being stopped by a law enforcement officer, Georgia drivers who are suspected of impairment through drugs or alcohol can be asked to take a series of tests. According to the Georgia Code, drivers who do not submit to these tests can have their licenses suspended or revoked.
Criminal charges for refusal
The New York Times notes that in 13 other states, however, such a refusal can lead to criminal charges for drivers. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that may have a long-reaching impact on how individual states approach test refusals by suspected drunk or drugged drivers.
The new case involves a driver from Minnesota and two from North Dakota. All three refused requested DUI testing. In both states, such a refusal is considered a crime. Under current Minnesota law, the refusal of a DUI breath test can result in a driver spending between three and seven years in jail. A drunk or drugged driving conviction is not required for this sentence to be imposed. In North Dakota, the refusal of a DUI breath test can result in the same consequences as an actual conviction for driving while under the influence.
Forcing people to submit to a test
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guards against unreasonable search or seizure. However, a 2013 court decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court stated that officers should obtain warrants in most cases concerning drunk driving, in order to take blood samples from drivers who do not consent to testing.
Thenewspaper.com notes that a 2014 ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals also approved testing of uncooperative drivers so long as a judge has provided a warrant to the officers. The case concerned a man who was tested after officers obtained a warrant from a judge. The man, whose blood alcohol content was measured at 0.12, claimed that the use of a warrant violated his rights.
In the case that is to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, the three defendants claim that Minnesota and North Dakota have used the criminal charge as a way to get around the need for a warrant. The defendants allege that the laws in their respective states are in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
People who support the criminalization of test refusals point to implied consent laws that stipulate drivers agree to testing as a condition of being allowed the right to drive. CBS Miami notes that the Florida Supreme Court will be hearing a case similar to that heading to the nation's highest court. In Florida, the question at hand is whether or not drivers can be subject to penalties when a warrant was not used. There, prosecutors put forth the argument that the Fourth Amendment is superseded by a drunk driving investigation.
What drivers in Georgia should do
While Georgia does not make it a criminal offense to refuse a chemical test, keeping an eye on how these cases play out is important. If residents from Georgia are stopped and charged with drunk driving while visiting a state with this type of policy, they could find themselves in a similar situation. Contacting a DUI lawyer after an arrest is always recommended so that drivers can have the assistance of someone who understands the nuances of the law.