One of the most important rulings regarding a Georgia DUI in years. The Georgia Supreme Court just jumped into this legal conundrum. The ruling that consent obtained with a stick isn’t necessarily free and voluntary. The decision is likely to keep Georgia judges busy fielding warrant applications in DUI cases. In the long run, it could undo decades of standard practice in impaired driving cases nationwide.
“This could be a huge decision,” said Bryan Howard, of the Howard Law Group.
Even going back 30 years ago, most states, including Georgia, have had laws on the books that say anyone who drives on public roads has given “implied consent” to being tested for drugs or alcohol if a cop has probable cause to believe they’re driving under the influence. Georgia’s law, like most others, allows a suspect to refuse, but on penalty of losing his license for a year.
However, the Constitution’s guarantee against “unreasonable searches and seizures” demands something rather different. Courts have held that cops can’t search either your home or your body without a warrant, except in certain well defined circumstances, one being that you “freely and voluntarily” consent to the search.
It’s only in recent years that courts have begun to address the tension between the Constitution and the state laws. Last month, Georgia’s high court ruled that a lower court was wrong to assume that a suspect who submits to the required test under state law has consented to waive the constitutional requirement for a warrant. The justices sent the case back to the lower court to directly address that issue.
The good news is that, for the time being, there are likely to be a whole lot more cops seeking warrants to draw blood from DUI suspects. And that represents a fundamental shift, if not an huge hurdle.
More to come on this ruling. We will have to see how the Courts handle this new decision and how Judges in the lower courts handle it.