Like all states, Georgia has what are known as "implied consent" laws. These laws are based on the idea that, by driving on Georgia roads, you have agreed in advance to take a chemical test to detect the presence of alcohol or drugs in your body.
You're required to submit to testing if lawfully arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or involved in a traffic accident resulting in fatalities or serious injuries (including broken bones, severe burns, or loss of consciousness). The arresting officer selects the kind of test to be performed—typically, a blood, breath, or urine test. Tests of "other bodily substances," such as saliva, are also an option but aren't commonly used.
No matter what kind of test the officer selects, it must be performed in the manner required by law using designated machines and methods. For example, only certain medical professionals can draw blood, so blood tests are usually done at a hospital.
If you're arrested for DUI, the officer is supposed to read or recite Georgia's "implied consent notice." This notice informs you of the requirement to submit to testing, the penalties for refusal, and the right to request an independent test. The officer is then required to ask whether you will submit to the chemical test designated by the officer.
Generally, an officer's failure to give the implied consent notice will make the test results inadmissible in criminal court. Such a failure on the part of the officer will also prevent the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) from administratively suspending the driver's license based on the results of or the driver's refusal to take the test.
Drivers who submit to chemical testing have the right to request an independent test at their own expense from qualified personnel of their choosing. The independent test doesn't have to match the officer's test. In other words, you can request a blood test even though the officer had you take a breath test. However, drivers who refuse the test selected by the officer forfeit the right to an independent test.
The arresting officer is required to make reasonable accommodations to facilitate a legitimate request for an independent test. If your request isn't fulfilled, your attorney can ask the court not to allow the result of the state's test into evidence. The court will then consider whether your request for an independent test was reasonable, looking at factors that might include:
You have the right to refuse to take a DUI chemical test (unless the officer obtains a search warrant, making implied consent no longer applicable to your case). But the fact that you refused can and usually will be used against you in criminal court: the prosecutors will likely argue your refusal indicates you had something to hide.
Refusing a chemical test will also lead to harsh administrative consequences. The Georgia DDS will suspend your license for one year with no limited driving permit available.
The implied consent law is designed to encourage those arrested for DUI to take the chemical test. The law does this by imposing a mandatory one-year license suspension for a refusal. While declining an officer's request to take a chemical test can result in harsher sanctions than you'd otherwise be facing, there might also be circumstances where refusal is in your best interest.
Unlike in some states, Georgia law doesn't give drivers the right to consult with an attorney prior to deciding whether to take a chemical test. Georgia courts have consistently held that being asked to decide whether to take the chemical test is not a critical stage of criminal proceedings where the right to counsel is absolute.
If you've been stopped for driving under the influence in Georgia, it's important to get legal assistance. A local DUI lawyer can review your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation.