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Georgia Court Rules that Evidence of a Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test is Inadmissible at DUI Trial

The laws regarding what evidence may be admitted at a DUI criminal trial continue to change throughout the country. In many states, including Illinois, the laws allow the State to introduce evidence of a defendant’s refusal to submit to a breath test as evidence of guilt at trial. Lately, however, there have been challenges to implied consent statutes and the constitutionality of admitting evidence of a refusal to submit to chemical testing throughout the country.

Recently, in Elliot v. Georgia, the Supreme Court of Georgia held that a Georgia statute which permitted the State to introduce evidence of a defendant’s refusal to submit to a breath test was unconstitutional because it violated the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. If you are charged with an Illinois DUI, it is important to retain a seasoned Illinois DUI attorney who will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you retain your rights.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest 

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped due to suspicion of DUI. She was arrested, after which she refused to submit to a breath test. Prior to her trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence of her refusal to submit to chemical testing, arguing that the introduction of the evidence would violate her right against self-incrimination under the Georgia Constitution. The court denied the defendant’s motion, after which she appealed.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Georgia found in the defendant’s favor and held that the statute that permitted the State to introduce evidence of a DUI suspect’s refusal to submit to chemical testing was unconstitutional. Specifically, the court held that in addition to barring oral and written testimony that was self-incriminating the Georgia Constitution barred compelled acts that were self-incriminating. The court found that a breath test is an incriminating act and therefore, the State could not compel a person to take a breath test.

The court then addressed the issue of whether evidence of a refusal to submit to a breath test could be introduced at trial. Upon review, the court held that evidence of a defendant’s invocation of the right against self-incrimination, in this case by refusing to submit to a breath test, should be precluded at trial.

Illinois Law Regarding Evidence of Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test

Currently, the Illinois statute regarding chemical testing in DUI cases, 625 ILCS 5/11–501.2 permits the state to introduce evidence of a DUI suspect’s refusal to submit to chemical testing at trial.  Portions of the chemical testing statute have been deemed unconstitutional by the Illinois courts, but the provision regarding evidence of a suspect’s refusal remains unchallenged. While the Elliot v. Georgia ruling is not precedential outside of Georgia it is likely to spark challenges to the constitutionality of similar statutes throughout the country and may continue to change the landscape of DUI law. 

Meet with an Experienced Illinois DUI Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you face DUI charges in Illinois, you should retain an experienced DUI attorney to assist you in developing a vigorous defense. Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, will work tirelessly to help you in your pursuit of a favorable outcome. Mr. Harvatin can be contacted at 217.525.0520 to set up a confidential and free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Holds Police Cannot Take Warrantless Blood Draws From Unconscious DUI Suspects, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, October 2, 2017.