New Georgia DUI decision could have lasting effect on cases, law enforcement

New Georgia DUI decision could have lasting effect on cases, law enforcement

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) - A big decision coming down from Georgia’s Supreme Court Monday will impact drivers across the state.

The high court says refusing a breathalyzer test can NOT be used against you in court for a DUI case.

The ruling is still fresh, but attorneys say it's going to end up being a huge decision.

"The ruling in this case means that the Georgia Constitution provides better safeguards than the United States Constitution 5th Amendment right to not self-incriminate," explained attorney Shawn Merzlak.

Merzlak is an attorney with the Hawk Law Group in Augusta. He previously worked in the DA's office, and as an investigator in law enforcement for 12 years.

He says this could drag out the DUI process, but potentially for the right reasons.

"It's going to make law enforcement investigate more," he told News 12.

In Georgia there are two ways to prove a DUI: Being over the legal limit, or being deemed an "unsafe driver" because of alcohol or drug influence.

"There's many ways that he would still be able to prove that you were a less safe driver, and it was because of alcohol," said Merzlak, when asked whether he thought this might slow officers down too much.

He believes that for police, there's also still a way around it if the circumstances require it.

"They'll probably start getting search warrants for peoples' blood...But you're talking about charging someone with a crime, so if it takes a little more time to investigate that to prove somebody guilty, then it's worth it," he said.

This ruling is also retroactive, meaning no matter where your case is in the process, it will be affected.

"Cases in the future, cases that are pending prosecution, as well as cases that have yet to be adjudicated," Merzlak said.

Merzlak also points out the impact on cases that have already been ruled on will be very small, because there's only a limited window for people to appeal based on the 5th Amendment.

News 12 has reached out to see what law enforcement says about the ruling and is waiting to hear back.

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