A recent AJC article spotlights the growing trend of Metro Atlanta police agencies seeking search warrants for suspected DUI drivers' blood. According to the piece, the Atlanta Police Department may soon join Douglas County, and the Georgia State Patrol in seeking search warrants for a DUI suspect's blood. A search warrant must be signed by a judge, usually a magistrate, and must be supported by probable cause.
Under Georgia law, a person arrested for DUI may consent or refuse chemical testing of their "blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances". Drivers who refuse testing face harsher driver's license penalties (a minimum one year suspension without a hardship permit), but have the advantage of depriving prosecutors of their strongest piece of evidence in most Georgia DUI cases: a breath or blood test showing alcohol content. Georgia's implied consent law has been in place for decades, and provides drivers the option of refusing chemical testing after being arrested for DUI, or other serious traffic offenses where an officer believes alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances were a contributing factor. Without chemical evidence, the article points out that law enforcement is forced to make an arrest decision on things like the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, and slurred speech.
While search warrants are generally authorized if supported by probable cause that a specific crime has been committed, this growing trend seemingly usurps Georgia implied consent law. If a driver has refused testing, yet a warrant is issued for a blood draw, the driver could still face "refusal" treatment under Georgia implied consent (leading to harsher license suspension laws) even though police and prosecutors are still able to obtain the driver's blood alcohol level. It should be noted that under current implied consent law, it is still OK for other means like a search warrant to be used to gain evidence, though it has been rare in past years. The trend of search warrant use by Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Atlanta Police Department, and the Georgia State Patrol reflects the ever-growing push of law enforcement to deter drunk driving on Georgia's roadways. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Forsyth County, North Georgia, or throughout Metro Atlanta, my law offices will speak to you at no-cost to discuss your defense.