Pursuant to Georgia law, a trial judge may decide whether a procedure in question has reached a stage of scientific certainty. The trial court makes this determination based on evidence presented to it during trial, or based on exhibits, treatises, or cases from other jurisdictions. The trial court ultimately decides based on the evidence available to him rather than by calculating the consensus in the scientific community. This issue came up before the Georgia Supreme Court this fall in the context of a DUI appeal. It could play a role in Illinois DUI proceedings at some time as well.
Following a jury trial, a Georgia woman was convicted of DUI and possession of an open container. She appealed the DUI. The appeals court affirmed, and the Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the intermediate court erred in holding that the trial court properly admitted the police officer’s testimony correlating her horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test results with her blood alcohol content (BAC). The Georgia Supreme Court reversed her conviction because the testimony lacked a sufficient foundation.
The defendant was pulled over for a broken headlight, and the officer observed that her speech was slurred and she smelled of alcohol. Moreover, she was wearing a wristband from a bar, and there was a plastic cup in the center console that seemingly contained alcohol. The officer administered an HGN test, which revealed four out of six cues suggesting impairment.