2019-03-13 / Front Page

New DUI test rules explained

Mason Winkler
True Citizen intern

Law enforcement officers are operating under a new set of rules when it comes to DUI breathalyzer tests.

On Monday, Feb. 18, the Georgia Supreme Court adjusted a portion of the DUI law that allows drivers to refuse a breathalyzer test without the refusal being held against them in a court of law.

This change in the law took immediate effect, and prosecutors have informed law enforcement officials they should secure a warrant for those who refuse to provide urine or blood samples in order to combat drunk driving.

Burke County Sheriff ’s Office Chief Deputy Lewis Blanchard explained the reason for this sudden change is that lawmakers determined using a driver’s noncompliance to a breathalyzer test to be an infringement of personal rights. Deemed as “self-incriminating,” such refusal can no longer be held against a defendant in a court of law. Now, if a driver refuses to provide a breath, blood or a urine sample, officers should obtain a warrant in order to forcibly draw blood or obtain urine.

Local law enforcement says this additional step will not deter them from doing their job, which includes keeping impaired drivers off the roads.

Chief Deputy Blanchard says judges from the magistrate’s office are on call to make sure there are no hiccups in a potential DUI arrest. “They have to answer within in the hour,” he explains, “to ensure that we can get the warrants requested. All of the magistrate judges are very helpful and provide assistance expeditiously upon request.”

Currently, the BCSO has no plans to obtain warrants for those who refuse unless they are involved in a crash with injuries or a fatality. “Our philosophy is that just because something is legal, or that you can do it, doesn’t mean that you should.”

In the event of a crash officers are required to acquire a warrant to administer a blood or urine sample automatically at the nearest hospital.

Blanchard went on to say that suspects who consent to a breathalyzer test do not have the right to independent testing and that this change in the DUI law does not affect the Georgia Department of Driver Services’ standard for noncompliance in a DUI investigation. “Driving is a privilege, not a right,” Blanchard says, adding that a driver’s refusal of the breathalyzer test will still result in a six-month or longer suspension of his or her driver’s license.

“Law enforcement often adapts to changes in the law, and this is no different,” said Chief Deputy Blanchard. “This change in procedure will in no way hinder or deter the enforcement and proper convictions of those who choose to drive intoxicated, endangering others on the roadways in our county or anywhere in Georgia.”

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