Today, the Supreme Court of Georgia, released an opinion in the case of Elliott v. State that will impact every DUI case in the State of Georgia where the Defendant refused to submit to a chemical test of their breath after being read the Georgia Implied Consent Notice. The holding of the opinion states that if a Defendant elects to assert their right against self-incrimination under Paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution by refusing to consent to a breath test after being arrested for DUI, that assertion of the defendant’s right to refuse cannot be introduced against them during their criminal case.

Facts of the Case

The facts at issue in this case are that Ms. Elliott was arrested for DUI in 2015. After arrest she was read the Georgia Implied Consent Notice and the officer requested she submit to a breath test. Ms. Elliott refused to submit to a breath test. Her attorney during a motion to suppress argued that the refusal to submit to the breath test under the Georgia Implied Consent Notice should be suppressed because Ms. Elliott was asserting her Paragraph XVI right under the Georgia Constitution. The trial court ruled against Ms. Elliott, allowing her refusal to be tendered as evidence at trial. The Supreme Court heard this case on direct appeal by her attorney.

The opinion, written by Justice Nels Peterson dives deep into the history of Paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution, from its English Common Law history, to early United States Constitutional interpretation, early Georgia case law prior to the adoption of the 1877 Georgia Constitution, and finally to our current 1983 Georgia Constitution. Paragraph XVI reads, “No person shall be compelled to give testimony ending in any manner to be self-incriminating.” (GA. Const. Art. I. Sec. 1. Par. XVI. 1983) The question at issue in this case is, does Paragraph XVI protect compelled acts, specifically breath testing under the right against self-incrimination. The Court, in a unanimous decision agrees that the refusal to submit to breath testing under the Georgia Implied Consent Notice cannot be introduced against a Defendant at trial. Prior to this holding the refusal to submit to the breath test could be used as a presumption that alcohol was found in your system.

Call us today!

The holding today could have further ramifications for both the constitutionality of the Georgia Implied Consent Notice and the introduction of breath test results at trial without being warned of your right against self-incrimination. There are other cases pending in the Supreme Court that should address those issues this year. If you have any questions regarding how this ruling may impact your DUI case, call us today at 404-581-0999.