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Attorney Christopher T. Adams

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3 things Georgia drivers need to know about breath tests

Breathalyzer tests have become so compact and affordable that some people carry their own pocket testing devices so that they know whether they can safely drive home from a night out with friends. Police officers in Georgia continue to use chemical breath test systems as a means of gathering evidence that someone committed a driving under the influence offense, as simply being over the legal limit is grounds for arrest.

Police officers will ask someone to perform a breathalyzer test after pulling them over on suspicion of drunk driving or their involvement in a collision. There are three facts about chemical breath tests that Georgia drivers should know before they end up performing a test during an interaction with a police officer.

Tests aren’t always reliable

People tend to think of chemical testing as highly accurate, possibly even infallible. However, there are many issues that can compromise the accuracy of breath test results. Problems with the maintenance and calibration of the testing unit could lead to elevated or false positive results. Certain medications, health conditions and dietary practices on the part of the driver performing the test could also trigger a false positive.

Officers need probable cause to demand a test

Every driver in Georgia has theoretically already given they are implied consent to chemical testing by driving. The law in Georgia requires that drivers submit to chemical testing when a police officer has probable cause to suspect impairment. The state may file secondary charges against someone who refuses a test that could result in a license suspension.

Refusing a breathalyzer test shouldn’t affect other charges

Historically, prosecutors have pointed to someone’s refusal to perform a breath test as likely evidence that they knew that they were under the influence. However, the Georgia state Supreme Court rejected this practice when ruling on a criminal case. Now, state prosecutors typically cannot reference a violation of the implied consent law in an attempt to build a driving under the influence (DUI) case.

Understanding the rules about breath testing and also the risks of refusing one after an arrest may help those who have been stopped by police make better use of their rights and those accused of a DUI plan a more effective defense.


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