Getting pulled over for any reason can be a stressful experience, but especially if you’ve had a few drinks. When an officer asks you to submit to a breath or blood test, the experience can go from stressful to downright terrifying, particularly if you don’t know your rights. So, does Georgia law require you to submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood?
In short, the answer is yes and no.
If you are arrested for DUI and an officer asks for a sample of your blood, breath, or urine, it is very important that you know and understand your rights. Here’s what you should know:
Roadside Sobriety Tests vs. Chemical Tests
Roadside sobriety tests are not the same as chemical tests, so it’s important not to confuse the two.
If you’re pulled over because an officer believes you are intoxicated, he or she may ask you to perform a series of sobriety tests. These tests are designed to help the officer determine whether you are safe enough to drive, or if you must be taken into custody.
Here are some examples of roadside sobriety tests:
- The 9 Step Walk and Turn Test
- The officer may ask you to walk in a straight line, touching heel to toe with each step, while following other commands given by the officer.
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test
- You may be asked to follow the officer’s finger or pen as he or she moves it from side to side in front of your face while looking for an involuntary movement of your eyeballs called nystagmus.
- The One Leg Stand Test
- This test is designed to test your balance and ability to follow multiple instructions at once.
- Reciting the Alphabet Without Singing
- The officer may request that you say the alphabet without using the well-known tune to help you remember.
- Finger-to-Nose Test
- This test helps determine your dexterity. You may be asked to stand straight with your feet together, close your eyes, extend your arms, and touch your finger to your nose.
- Modified Rhomberg Test
- The Modified Rhomberg test is designed to test your internal clock by asking you to silently estimate 30 seconds while tilting your head back with your eyes closed.
- Preliminary Breath Test
- The preliminary breath test is a handheld breath test that an officer can use to determine if you have consumed alcohol. The preliminary breath test is not considered a “state-administered” chemical test, and it is not admissible at trial to show blood alcohol content. It is only admissible to show the presence or absence of alcohol. You are under no legal obligation to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test, and your refusal to submit to a preliminary breath test can not be used against you.
You have the right, as a Georgia driver, to refuse a roadside sobriety test. However, most police officers won’t tell you that you are within your rights to refuse these examinations. If you choose to refuse the field sobriety tests, the officer cannot suspend your license or use your refusal against you.
“State Administered Chemical Tests”
Field sobriety tests are used to aid an officer in deciding whether to make a DUI arrest. Once an arrest has been made, the officer may ask for a “State Administered Chemical Test.” State Administered Chemical Tests are used AFTER an arrest is made to determine the blood alcohol content and/or the presence and amount of drugs in your blood. “State Administered Chemical Tests” implicate both criminal and civil law, so it is important to understand both the criminal and civil consequences of your decision.
If you are arrested for a DUI, you have a right to refuse a State Administered Chemical Test, but your refusal could result in a suspension of your driver’s license.
If the arresting officer reads you the Georgia Implied Consent Notice after placing you under arrest, you must decide whether you wish to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine. If you submit to the test, you will be providing the State with important evidence that could be used to criminally prosecute you for DUI. However, if you refuse to submit to the test, the officer can initiate a civil proceeding against you to suspend your driver’s license for refusing the test. Every case is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether you should submit to the blood or breath test. The following is a list of factors that should be considered when determining whether you should submit to a blood, breath, or urine test:
Breathalyzer Tests Aren’t Always Accurate
Police don’t use breath testing because it is the most accurate form of blood alcohol testing. They use breath testing because it is the cheapest, quickest, and easiest form of blood alcohol testing. Unfortunately, breath testing is also the LEAST accurate form of blood alcohol testing. There are numerous external factors that can affect the accuracy of a breath test, including medical conditions as common as acid reflux and diabetes.
Blood Testing Is the Most Accurate
Blood testing is the most accurate form of blood alcohol testing. However, factors like elapsed time from when the arrest was made to the time of the blood draw, chain of custody issues, and issues regarding the voluntariness of consent can all affect the admissibility of a blood test at trial.
Urine Tests Are Usually Used Only for Drugs
If an officer asks you to submit to a urine test, it is a pretty good indicator the officer suspects you are under the influence of a drug other than alcohol. Urine tests are most often used as screening tools and do not quantify the exact amount of alcohol or drugs in your blood.
If you are pulled over for a DUI, you have the right to refuse a roadside sobriety test. However, if the officer places you under arrest, you will be faced with the difficult decision between giving evidence that can be used against you at the trial of your criminal case or suffering the potential civil penalty of suspension of your driver’s license.
We’re Here to Help
If you have been arrested for a DUI, it’s important to seek legal representation right away. When your freedom is on the line, there is no time to waste. Don’t hesitate to contact our office right away with any questions you may have.