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New legal requirements affect Georgia drunk driving cases

No one in Georgia thinks it is a good idea to drink and drive. Any more than a minute amount of beer, wine or liquor can cause a lack of ability to drive safely, and thousands of people are killed in the United States every year by drunk driving incidents on the road. But changes in the laws that allow police and sheriffs to investigate drunk driving cases in Georgia mean that suspects should be aware of them.

Implied consent was the root of a recent ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court, now called the Elliott decision. The ruling included the idea that an alcohol level test taken by breath, also called a Breathalyzer, may not be involuntarily required from suspects because of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of people's right to not incriminate themselves.

As a result, a driver's refusal of a Breathalyzer test at a traffic stop can no longer be evidence in court. However, refusal to take a blood alcohol content (BAC) test with a blood sample may still be considered evidence. Police may still get a warrant to require a blood test, which is more expensive for law enforcement and require someone who is permitted to draw blood as a medical procedure.

"I think a lot of departments are changing and going to a protocol where they don't necessarily ask for breath tests, they may ask for a blood test, which is actually more accurate," according to a Georgia district attorney.

People accused of drunk driving are always permitted legal representation at any time. An attorney can represent a client during questioning, in court or any other time while working with prosecutors and courts in Georgia.

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