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Rowell v. State, A11A1231, November 15, 2011: Blow correctly or go to jail is not custody for purpose of Miranda

Rowell v. State, A11A1231, November 15, 2011: Laura Rowell was stopped for DUI in Houston County, Georgia after slamming on brakes and stopping past the stop bar at a red light. She appealed the Houston County Georgia Trial Court’s denial of her motion to suppress evidence at a motion hearing.  The Court found that there was probable cause to arrest her based on the odor of alcohol, unsteadiness, red eyes, somewhat slurred speech,  the HGN test even though performed incorrectly, and one-leg stand test even though in heels.

Rowell claimed that the alcosensor test given was inadmissible because of the lack of Miranda warnings given to her. The Arresting DUI Officer gave Rowell the option of performing the test properly or going to jail. A reasonable person in Rowell’s position would have believed that she was not yet under arrest and if she gave a sample she would not go to jail.  Rowell had already consented to and begun performing the test before the threat of jail. When Rowell failed to blow properly, only then did the Officer say he would take her to jail if she did not perform the test correctly.   The Court continued that even if the alcosensor was coercive and violated Miranda it was a harmless error.

Rowell did not raise the Officer’s failure to read the implied consent on the video at trial so the issue was not preserved for appeal.  The video did not show implied consent but the Officer testified that he read the breath test rights.

Finally, the Court’s admission of the inadmissible alcosensor results was a harmless error at a motion to suppress. A reversal is not warranted simply because the Trial Judge heard inadmissible evidence.

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