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Attorney Christopher T. Adams

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When is breath testing mandatory for Georgia drivers?

Someone who is pulled over by police officers because they allegedly drove after drinking could face criminal prosecution. Officers typically need to gather evidence that confirms their suspicions that someone committed a driving under the influence (DUI) infraction.

Sometimes, the answers drivers give to questions about their behavior can help the state build a case against them. Other times, field sobriety testing can confirm an officer’s suspicions about someone’s impaired ability. However, the most authoritative evidence of intoxication at the wheel is a failed chemical breath test. Those who fail chemical breath tests are at risk of prosecution.

When can a Georgia police officer insist that someone perform a breath test during a traffic stop in Georgia?

Chemical tests are not always mandatory

There are limits to the searches police officers can perform without permission or a warrant. Those limits also apply to attempts to test someone’s chemical status. Drivers aren’t automatically forced to submit to testing anytime an officer asks them to perform a test, but many people give up their rights because they don’t know them.

Some police officers like to go on fishing expeditions. They use their authority to coerce people into giving up their rights and making other mistakes that put them at risk of prosecution. Officers sometimes ask people to perform breath tests when they have no actual evidence of impairment at the wheel.

Drivers are theoretically free to decline such requests, much like they can refuse to perform field sobriety tests. However, someone’s right to refuse testing typically ends when an officer has grounds to arrest them. If an officer has established the probable cause that they require to take someone into state custody, they can ask the driver to perform a breath test.

Refusing to do so in that situation is a violation of Georgia’s implied consent law. Essentially, those already under arrest for impaired driving charges have already given their implied consent to allow the state to gather chemical evidence of their alleged violation. Until an arrest occurs, drivers have the option of declining a test without risking additional penalties.

Those who understand their rights can better handle an officer’s requests during a DUI traffic stop. Knowing when declining a test is an option could help a driver avoid a scenario where they unnecessarily implicate themselves.


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