Voluntary Consent: The Case Of Williams v. State And It's Subsequent Impact

Posted by Richard Lawson | Oct 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

The case Williams v. State was decided in March of last year by the Georgia Supreme Court. It discussed whether or not a suspect's consent to a DUI test was voluntary. The court's decision and the ruling of several lower court judges has resulted in chemical test evidence being suppressed where the lower court judge determines that the suspect did not actually consent to a test.

John Cletus Williams was charged with a DUI in September of 2012. After his arrest, he was read the implied consent notice and asked to submit to a blood test and a urine test. Williams was told it was a "was 'a yes or no question,' and Williams verbally responded 'yes.'" This was the extent that his consent to take the test was discussed. Later on, he moved to have the results of the test suppressed citing Fourth Amendment concerns, however, his motion was denied by the lower court. On appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court had a different point of view.

The court first stated that "[a] suspect's right under the Fourth Amendment to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the compelled withdrawal of blood, and the extraction of blood is a search within the meaning of the Georgia Constitution." The court continued, "[i]n general, searches are of two types: those conducted with a search warrant or those undertaken without one." The searches that are "conducted outside the judicial process are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions." If a search does not fall with a warrant exception, it is "presumed to be invalid."

The court then looked at several cases that discussed exigent circumstances, which is one of the warrant exceptions that has been used to justify requiring a suspect to take a chemical test without first obtaining a warrant. The most recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling when Williams was decided had determined that "while the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood may support a finding of exigency in a specific case, as it did in Schmerber, it does not do so categorically. Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances." In Williams case, there had been no exigent circumstances, it had just been a normal DUI.

The Georgia Supreme Court next examined the consent exception to the warrant rule. Under this exception, "the State has the burden of proving that the accused acted freely and voluntarily under the totality of the circumstances." The court determined that it was unclear whether or not Williams had in fact actually consented to take the chemical tests. The justices then remanded the case back to the lower court to determine the issue of consent.

When the lower court judge, Judge Joseph Iannazzone,  took a second look at whether or not William's consent was voluntary, he determined that it was not and threw out the evidence from the test. He also threw out test evidence in five other cases. Since this happened, other drivers suspected of DUI have successfully contested their consent as well. The prosecutor in several of the DUI cases hear by Iannazzone has stated that she is appealing the Judge's ruling.

If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence, you want a knowledgeable and skilled attorney on your side. Contact Gwinnett County DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson today.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Richard S. Lawson is passionate about intoxicated driving defense. Unlike some attorneys, Mr. Lawson devotes 100% of his legal practice to helping people stand up for their rights against DUI charges. For more than 20 years, Mr. Lawson has dutifully fought for his clients' freedom, resolving more 4,900 impaired driving cases during the course of his career. Today, Mr. Lawson has developed a reputation as a skilled negotiator and continues to help clients by fighting to keep them out of jail.


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