In another Driving Under the Influence case, the Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled that a person arrested for DUI does not need to be read Miranda rights prior to being asked to submit to a breath test.

“Nothing in the Georgia Constitution or Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 24-5-506 requires Miranda-style prophylactic warnings before a suspect in custody is asked to submit to a breath test,” Justice Nels S.D. Peterson writes in today’s unanimous decision.

With today’s decision, the high court has vacated a Gwinnett County court ruling in the case of Stephen Turnquest. The trial court had ruled that the failure to read Turnquest his Miranda rights before asking him to take a breath test violated his right against compelled self- incrimination under Georgia statutory and constitutional law, and that the test results therefore
would be suppressed when his case went to trial.

In its 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court imposed on law enforcement the requirement to give persons in custody a warning of their rights before interrogating them. Those rights are: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

According to the parties, in March 2017, an officer with the Lawrenceville Police Department responded to a single-vehicle wreck in Gwinnett County in which Turnquest had been driving. The officer initiated an impaired driving investigation and ultimately developed probable cause to arrest Turnquest for DUI. After placing Turnquest under arrest, the officer read
him Georgia’s age-appropriate Implied Consent Notice as stated in Georgia Code § 40-5-67.1 (b)

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(2), but the officer did not give him Miranda warnings. Turnquest gave his consent to provide a
breath sample.
Prior to trial, Turnquest’s attorney filed a motion to suppress the admission of his breath
test results, based on his right against compelled self-incrimination. Turnquest argued that
Miranda warnings must precede a request to perform a chemical breath test, because as this
Court ruled in 2017 in Olevik v. State, under the Georgia Constitution, the right against
compelled self-incrimination prohibits not only the compulsion of incriminating testimony, but
also of incriminating acts. Under Olevik, submitting to a breath test is an incriminating act, which
the State is therefore prevented from requiring. Turnquest also argued that the breath test should
be suppressed because the implied consent advisement misled him by stating that if he refused
the test, his refusal could be used against him at trial. Earlier this year, the Georgia Supreme
Court ruled in Elliott v. State that the Georgia Constitution’s right against compelled self-
incrimination prohibits the State from introducing evidence of a defendant’s exercise of that
right.
Following a hearing, the trial judge ruled in Turnquest’s favor, finding that the breath test
was administered in violation of his statutory and constitutional right against compelled self-
incrimination because the test was conducted in the absence of Miranda-style warnings. In
reaching its decision, the trial court relied in part on the state Supreme Court’s 1998 decision in
Price v. State, in which the high court ruled that the failure to give Miranda warnings rendered
evidence of field sobriety tests inadmissible because the defendant was in custody when asked to
perform the tests. Following the trial court’s pre-trial ruling in Turnquest’s case, the State
appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, asking the high court to overrule Price.
In today’s 42-page opinion, the high court has overruled Price and other Georgia
appellate decisions to the extent they hold that either the Georgia statute prohibiting compelled
self-incrimination or the Georgia Constitution “requires law enforcement to warn suspects in
custody of their right to refuse to perform an incriminating act.”
“Today we hold that neither the Georgia right against compelled self-incrimination, the
Georgia right to due process, nor a Georgia statute prohibiting compelled self-incrimination
requires law enforcement to provide similar warnings to persons arrested for DUI before asking
them to submit to a breath test,” today’s opinion says.
The Price case was “wrongly decided,” the opinion says, and “to the extent that it is
contrary to our conclusion about the meaning of the Georgia Constitution and Official Code of
Georgia Annotated § 24-5-506, we vacate the trial court’s order suppressing breath-test results
for failure to give Miranda warnings.” (OCGA § 24-5-506 states that, “No person who is
charged in any criminal proceeding with the commission of any criminal offense shall be
compellable to give evidence for or against himself or herself.”)
However, the Supreme Court is sending the case back to the Gwinnett County Court to
consider Turnquest’s other argument for suppressing his breath-test results – that the implied
consent advisement given to him was misleading – in light of this year’s decision in Elliott,
“which had not been decided at the time the trial court ruled on the motion to suppress.”