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Georgia’s revised breathalyzer language slight, but important

Words – their addition, omission and alteration – are important in law. There is perhaps no other realm where a key outcome so often rests largely or even entirely on the application or interpretation of a single word.

Take the word “required,” for instance. Until recently, that word was routinely uttered by Georgia police officers and state troopers communicating with detained motorists suspected of drunk driving. Those individuals were customarily informed that relevant state law required them to submit to “required testing” for evaluation of blood alcohol content. The law stated that refusal to comply “may be offered against you at trial.”

Georgia Supreme Court judges found the “required” reference objectionable in a recent case. They stressed the unconstitutionality of using a driver’s refusal to consent to breathalyzer testing as incriminating evidence in court. The court held that doing so violated an individual’s right against self-incrimination. The justices noted specifically that the law/legal language undermined the bedrock legal protections of being deemed innocent until proven guilty.

Legislators obviously pay due heed to high-court utterances on statutory law matters. That was evidenced late last month and in the near wake of the Georgia Supreme Court’s above-cited ruling when Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Georgia House Bill 471. That legislation omits reference to required breathalyzer testing. Notwithstanding the change, though, state law still allows law enforcers to ask motorists to submit to voluntary testing.

Questions or concerns regarding DUI-linked testing or any other issue related to a drunk driving arrest or charge can be directed to a proven legal team of criminal defense attorneys.

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