If you’re pulled over for a DUI in Georgia, the arresting officer will want to do a variety of tests. They will test your BAC to determine your level of intoxication. BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, is the measurement of how much alcohol is in a person’s blood—an indicator used by law enforcement to regulate alcohol consumption among drivers.
A breath test is a common way for law enforcement officers to measure a DUI suspect’s BAC. This test involves blowing through an instrument—such as the Intoxilyzer 5000, most often used in Georgia—which calibrates BAC levels immediately. Because results are so readily available, breath test results play a significant role in DUI cases.
An officer may also ask you to complete a series of exercises, or field sobriety tests (FSTs). These tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to determine a suspect’s level of intoxication on-the-scene.
Breath tests and field sobriety tests are major parts of Georgia DUI laws and procedures, so let’s go over them together.
How is BAC Measured?
Georgia Law Enforcement measures BAC in two ways: through a blood test or, more commonly, a breath test.
• Breath Tests: A breathalyzer test, which measures breath alcohol concentration, is a chemical test that estimates the amount of alcohol on your breath. Since this test can be administered by an officer, a breath test allows BAC evidence to be obtained immediately at the scene.
• Blood Tests: Blood tests are administered by a medical professional, at the police station or a medical facility, where the sample drawn from a driver is sent to a lab for analysis. This process is more tedious, with results potentially taking over a month to receive. Because blood tests are more complex and invasive, breathalyzer tests are often the preferred method of officers and DUI suspects alike.
BAC Facts in Georgia
● It is illegal for adults over the age of 21 to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or more.
● The BAC limit for drivers under the age of 21 is 0.02%.
● Breath alcohol concentration and blood alcohol concentration are often used interchangeably due to the “per se” DUI law, rendering a 0.08% breath alcohol concentration the same as a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration.
Breath Tests in Georgia DUI Laws and Procedures
BAC results from a breath test play a key role in Georgia DUI cases. Refusing to comply with law enforcement could have serious consequences.
A breath test is a common way for law enforcement officers to measure a DUI suspect’s blood alcohol content or BAC. This test involves blowing through an instrument—such as the Intoxilyzer 5000, most often used in Georgia—which calibrates BAC levels immediately. Because results are so readily available, breath test results play a significant role in DUI cases
What is Implied Consent?
If you have a valid driver’s license in the state of Georgia, you’ve agreed to abide by Georgia’s driving laws. Violating the law by driving while intoxicated subjects you to the implied consent law, requiring you to submit to a breath test at an officer’s request under reasonable suspicion.
Are Breath Tests Accurate?
While the results of a breath test are comparable to testing a blood sample, mistakes are possible. Law enforcement is advised to observe a suspect over a 20-minute waiting period before administering a breath test. This helps ensure that a suspect’s mouth alcohol content hasn’t been elevated through vomit or regurgitation, which could skew the results. If a test is administered before the recommended 20-minute observation period, it could be viewed as problematic in court.
Refusing a Breath Test
The results of a breath test provide can provide key evidence for DUI cases. Because of this, you may question if it’s in your best interest to refuse one. But having a driver’s license is a privilege that can easily be revoked, and refusing to comply with an officer’s request could result in serious consequences… even if you’re not guilty of drinking and driving.
Since the implied consent law legally obligates you to comply with BAC testing, refusal to submit to a breath test could result in immediate license suspension. It’s also likely that, by choosing to refuse a breathalyzer test at the scene, an arresting officer would then execute a warrant for a blood or urine test, forcing you to submit.
Regardless of the circumstances of your DUI arrest, if you are facing this charge it is in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney immediately. You only have 10 days from the date of your arrest to protect your drivers license in Georgia.
Field Sobriety Tests
Another type of common Georgia DUI laws and procedures are FSTs (or field sobriety tests) which may be used to determine your sobriety in the event that you are pulled over.
Common Field Sobriety Tests in Georgia DUI laws and procedures
Some of the most common FSTs are used to monitor a suspect’s balance, coordination, and attention. It is important to keep in mind that while these tests offer advantages in arresting drunk driving suspects, each exercise also comes with limitations based on the physical abilities of each driver.
● One-Leg Stand (OLS): An officer will ask the suspect to stand on one leg, monitoring balance.
● Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): A suspect follows an object with his or her eyes while the officer checks for obvious signs of intoxication. The HGN test is one of the most commonly approved.
● Walk-and-Turn (WAT): During the walk-and-turn, the suspect will take 10 steps to and from a designated spot. This exercise should be completed without swaying or falling.
● Finger-to-Nose: The suspect will be asked to extend each arm and touch their nose. Missing one’s nose is a strong indicator of intoxication.
● Counting Backwards or Reciting the Alphabet: Having a suspect count backwards or recite the alphabet is one of the least effective FSTs..
Refusing a Field Sobriety Test
Field sobriety tests were specifically designed to incriminate drunk driving suspects. These tests are not accurate scientific indicators of a suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC), and are highly subjective. A suspect may be unable to pass a field sobriety test based on their physical condition, age, environmental factors at the site of the road stop, flaws in law enforcement procedure, and more.
Due to its lack of scientific evidence in DUI cases, a field sobriety test is a voluntary exercise; you will not be penalized for refusing to comply with an officer’s request. We encourage you not to attempt to pass a field sobriety test.