After a casual night out with friends in Rome, you suddenly see flashing red and blue lights behind your vehicle. You anxiously pull over, trying to frantically recall everything you know about what to do during a DUI traffic stop. Should you consent to taking any breath or chemical tests?

Getting a DUI in Georgia can lead to steep penalties, even for first-time offenders. The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled in early 2019 that prosecutors can no longer use the refusal of a breath test against drivers in criminal court cases. However, does this mean that refusing a Breathalyzer test is in your best interests?

What the new ruling means for drivers

During a traffic stop, the police officer may ask you to consent to field sobriety tests or roadside tests as well as a Breathalyzer test. The officer should read you an implied consent warning, which informs you of:

  • Your right to refuse the breath test
  • What happens should you choose to consent or refuse
  • The consequences of refusing the test

Previously, prosecutors could use your refusal to consent to a breath test as evidence against you in a criminal court case. This could lead to harsher criminal penalties, including fines, jail time and more.

However, refusing the test can lead to the automatic suspension of your driver’s license for one year. While a DUI conviction can also lead to the suspension of your license for up to one year, you may have the option to apply for a limited driving permit to use your vehicle for basic needs, like getting to work. After both refusing a breath test and being convicted of a DUI, you cannot apply for such permits.

Should you refuse?

Many dispute the reliability and accuracy of breath tests. Factors like improper equipment maintenance, an insufficient sample of breath or even certain health conditions can all affect the results. While blood tests are more inconvenient and can take longer to collect, they are generally considered to produce the most accurate results.

The decision to consent or refuse to a Breathalyzer test during a traffic stop is your own. Remember that you can contest the charges you face whether you consented to or refused the breath test to potentially minimize both criminal and administrative penalties.