GEORGIA COURT UPHOLDS CONSENT FOR BLOOD DRAW BASED ON IMPLIED CONSENT
by Brian S. Batterton, Attorney
©2016 Brian S. Batterton, Attorney, PATC/ Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute (www.llrmi.com)
On April 22, 2016, the Court of Appeals of Georgia decided the State v. Reid [i], which serves as instructive concerning the law related to voluntary consent for a blood test under the Georgia Implied Consent statute. The relevant facts of Reid, taken directly from the case, are as follows:
The evening of February 8, 2015, a Georgia state trooper pulled Jessica Reid over for speeding. In the course of that traffic stop, the trooper suspected Reid had been driving under the influence of alcohol and he arrested her after conducting some field sobriety tests. After reading her the Georgia implied consent notice, the trooper transported Reid to a county fire department EMS to have a blood test. Before the blood draw, Reid signed an EMS form stating: "I hereby consent to allow SSFD/EMS, acting at the request of the Officer identified below and as an agent of a licensed law enforcement agency, to draw a blood sample for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol or any other drug." The state trooper also executed the EMS form below Reid's signature, stating that his request for a blood draw was made pursuant to the Georgia implied consent law. [ii]
Reid filed a motion to suppress the results of her blood test and argued that she did not give actual consent for her blood test because she merely acquiesced under threat of the loss of her driver’s license if she refused to consent based on the state Implied Consent law. Regarding the motion to suppress, the trial court held, based on the totality of the circumstances, that Reid did not give actual consent for her blood to be drawn and tested. As such the results of the blood test were suppressed. The State appealed the grant of the motion to suppress to the Court of Appeals of Georgia.
On appeal, the court first discussed the Williams v. State [iii], which is the case that the trial court relied upon in granting Reid’s motion to suppress. The court of appeals stated:
Williams rejected [a] per se rule automatically equating an affirmative response to the implied consent notice with actual consent to a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Instead, courts must now conduct a case-by-case analysis, considering the totality of the circumstances. . . . A consent to search will normally be held voluntary if the totality of the circumstances fails to show that the officers used fear, intimidation, threat of physical punishment, or lengthy detention to obtain the consent. Kendrick v. State, 335 Ga. App. 766, 769 ( SE2d ) (Feb. 23, 2016). [iv] [emphasis added]
The court of appeals next examined specific facts of Reid’s case that were relevant to whether she provided actual consent to draw and test her blood for alcohol and drugs. The court observed that Reid verbally agreed to submit to the blood test, and then later signed a written consent form that specifically stated it was for purpose of testing her blood to determine the presence of alcohol. Further, the trooper’s video of the stop showed that Reid clearly understood what was taking place and articulately pleaded with the trooper not to arrest her. Finally, the court observed that the video did not show any coercive circumstances that would undermine the voluntariness of Reid’s consent.
Based upon the facts above, the court of appeals stated:
"[W]e do not read Williams' rejection of a per se rule of consent under the implied consent statute as authorizing us to replace it with its opposite—that is, a per se rule that the State must always show more than consent under the implied consent statute. . . . An affirmative response to the question posed by the implied consent language may be sufficient . . . to find actual consent, absent reason to believe the response was involuntary." Kendrick v. State, supra at 771-772. [v] [emphasis added]
As such, the court stated that since there was no evidence that Reid’s consent was anything other than free and voluntary, the trial court erred in granting the motion to suppress, and they reversed the trial court’s decision.
Note: Court holdings can vary significantly between jurisdictions. As such, it is advisable to seek the advice of a local prosecutor or legal adviser regarding questions on specific cases. This article is not intended to constitute legal advice on a specific case.
[i] A16A1237 (Ga. App. Decided April 22, 2016)
[iii] 296 Ga. 817 771 SE 2d 373 (2015)
[iv] Reid at 2