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Padidham v. State – Georgia Supreme Court – S11G1808 – You can have your breath result when I say you can!

In Padidham v. State – S11G1808, Appellant Jyothiswar Padidham was arrested, charged, and convicted of DUI after being stopped for speeding. At the time of his arrest, Padidham was informed of his Implied Consent Rights and his right, should he submit to a State-administered breath test, to a certified independent test of his choosing to confirm the accuracy or inaccuracy of the State-administered test. At the police station after the arrest, Padidham submitted to a State-administered breath test, which indicated a blood alcohol level of around .127. Padidham was not informed of the results of his test until he was released from holding the morning after his arrest. Padidham moved to suppress the evidence of the State’s breath test results, claiming that it was the State’s “constitutional duty to immediately inform him of the results.” A trial court granted the motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision. Outlined is their position via Padidham’s claims: 1.) Any deviation from the procedures set out in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s operator’s manual for the Intoxilyzer 5000 would affect the weight, but not the admissibility of the State’s test results, and 2.) Padidham claims that not being immediately informed of his State-administered test results “deprived him of the opportunity to meaningfully decide whether to request independent testing and therefore violated his due process rights. But “to prevail he must demonstrate the procedure contains a defect so serious that it renders the process fundamentally unfair.” As established by Nix v. Long Mtn. Resources, due process does guarantee “a particular form or method of state procedure.”

What’s notable about this opinion is that it shows how the established parameters of due process can be restricted for people charged with time-sensitive offenses like DUI. Blood alcohol levels are not constant, but rather rise and fall. OCGA § 40-6-391 (a) (5) refers to the time-sensitive nature of a DUI charge: “a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while the person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving […].” This characteristic of DUI raises the question of how to define “immediately,” which is the term the Court uses to clarify that giving the accused State-administered test results within one day can be deemed as “immediately.” But considering that there is a specific window in which an independent test can be performed and still be a valid counterbalance to the State test, one day is far too long.

Citing Nix, the Court explains that the “’fundamental idea of due process is notice and an opportunity to be heard” It’s been established through Garret v. Dep’t of Public Safety that “'[o]ne cannot make an intelligent choice to submit to a chemical test without the knowledge of the right to have an independent test,’” which serves as “notice” regarding the due process for a DUI charge. The flaw in this reasoning is that there is a time limit by which the accused must make their decision to submit to an independent test, and it would seem that in such circumstances anything that hinders the accused from being able to make this decision quickly, or immediately, would constitute improper notice. Also, as cited in South Dakota V. Neville, “’the criminal process often requires suspects and defendants to make difficult choices.’ DUI defendants similarly must determine, ofter under difficult and stressful circumstances, whether to request an independent test.” Exactly. If requesting an independent test is both time-sensitive and difficult it should not be made more difficult because of lack of information or procedural statute, especially when the procedure – producing the results of a breath test – is not overly time-consuming. If there are laws that say a couple of thousandths of blood-alcohol content can determine if you are or are not driving under the influence, it does not seem unreasonable to claim that the knowledge of breath test results, or lack thereof, could affect the decision of the accused to seek out a qualified independent test enough to violate due process.

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