Like all the other states in the U.S., it's illegal to drive your car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Also like all of the other states in America, Georgia considers you to be “under the influence” of alcohol if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%, or higher. If you get pulled over by a police officer and have this much alcohol in your bloodstream, you'll face some unfortunate circumstances: A criminal charge for driving under the influence (DUI).
Georgia, however, is not like all of the other states in the U.S. in how it handles chemical testing – the tests that determine your BAC, or other signs of intoxication, using your blood, urine, or breath. Instead, Georgia is fairly unique, in that it guarantees your right to have your own, independent, test done, by qualified personnel and at your own expense, and requires law enforcement to reasonably accommodate your request for one.
Why would you want an independent chemical test? If the police have already taken a breathalyzer, or have already drawn your blood, what good does it do to have someone else do it? Getting stuck with needles is uncomfortable.
The first reason to request an independent test is that the law requires the police to accommodate you, and if they don't, then the results of the test that the police took get thrown away. Even if you got arrested and brought to the police station, and a breathalyzer showed that your BAC was 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit, if you request an independent test, and the police do not accommodate you, the test that resulted in a 0.23 will not be admissible in court. BAC results are a prosecutor's best friend in a DUI trial – if they don't have one, you often get acquitted.
The second reason to request an independent test is that Georgia's chemical testing procedures are not very strict, and often result in inaccurate test results, both through clerical error, and through improper handling. Without an independent test to challenge the police's BAC result, you'll never know if you were the victim of one of these mistakes.
To properly exercise your right to an independent test, you need to go through the police's test, first. Importantly, this does not include the Preliminary Breath Test that you may have been asked to take during the traffic stop, on the road. This test is conducted by the police officer, using a highly-portable, not-very-accurate, breathalyzer machine that is mainly used by police to see if there's any alcohol in your system.
If you end up getting brought into the police station, or to a mobile testing unit, and undergo a chemical test of your blood, urine, or breath there, then your right to an independent test comes alive. As soon as the test is done, say, “I would like to exercise my right to an independent test, now.” The police have to accommodate you by providing you with a phone book or internet source, so you can find a testing facility, and have to bring you to that facility, if it's within 50 miles. If you don't have enough money to pay for the test, they also have to drop you off at an ATM, if you ask them to. They also have to allow you to make a phone call to your family or friends, to arrange for a ride from the testing facility, once it's been done.
Exercise your right to an independent test. It can be well worth the money and extra time, if it challenges the police's test results. Call my law office, if you have any questions, or are facing DUI charges in the Atlanta area: (404) 816-4440.