The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects Illinois DUI defendants and those in other states from self-incrimination. The Georgia Constitution’s protection is broader. It applies to more than just testimony, also applying to coercive acts that generate incriminating evidence. This fall, the Georgia Supreme Court had to decide whether the Georgia Constitution‘s protection prohibited police from forcing someone suspected of DUI to be breathalyzed.
The defendant was convicted of DUI and related traffic offenses. He appealed. He challenged the lower court’s denial of his motion to suppress the results of a breath test. He argued that Georgia’s implied consent notice statute was unconstitutional. He further contended that his state constitutional right against self–incrimination was violated when law enforcement asked to breathalyze him, and the deceitful language of the implied consent notice was coercive. For these reasons, the defendant argued that the admission of his breath test results violated his constitutional rights.
The court agreed with the defendant that taking a breath test implicates a Georgia resident’s state constitutional right against compelled self–incrimination, and it overruled precedent ruling otherwise. The court reasoned that the relevant portion of the Georgia Constitution prohibits compelling a suspect to perform an act producing incriminating evidence, but it does not ban compelling a suspect to be present so that another person may perform such an act. And, as with other constitutional rights, a suspect may consent to act in a way the statute would prevent the state from compelling.