Most people are at least somewhat aware that their basic civil rights include the right against self-incrimination. What they may not realize is that this right primarily relates to what you say in court or while officially under arrest.
Police can and do often compel people to provide evidence that aids in the state building a case against someone accused of a crime. Collecting chemical samples from someone suspected of impaired driving is one way in which police can effectively use someone’s body against them in criminal proceedings.
Some people, eager to stand up for their rights and to avoid the expenses and complications associated with criminal charges will wonder whether they can refuse the chemical breath test police want to order during a roadside traffic stop involving suspicions of impaired driving. Familiarizing yourself with Georgia law will help you understand the legal and civil consequences of such a refusal.
Anyone on Georgia roads has consented to chemical testing
Georgia has an implied consent law that mandates that drivers acquiesce to chemical testing when requested by law enforcement due to reasonable suspicions of impairment. By driving a vehicle on the public road, you have already given your implied consent to enforcement-related testing to help keep people safe on the streets.
Police cannot compel you to provide a breath sample, but they may arrest you for a violation of the implied consent law. In some cases, they may be able to secure a warrant for chemical testing during your incarceration. Other times, they may attempt to proceed with impaired driving charges without any chemical evidence.
Your refusal won’t count against you in court
In most states, when someone violates the implied consent statute, the arresting officers have the opportunity to testify about that refusal in court. The courts typically view such a refusal as a personal admission of impairment.
The reasoning is that most people who know they would pass the test would have no reason to refuse it, so refusing the test is tantamount to admitting some degree of impairment. Georgia does not allow officers to testify about the refusal to take the test or to consider that in separate impaired driving charges.
However, although your refusal may not impact whether you face DUI charges or your risk of a conviction, you will have to deal with the civil consequences of such a refusal, which include the suspension of your license, regardless of whether you get convicted of impaired driving.