Elliott v. State

Court: Georgia Supreme Court
Case Number: S18A1204
Decision Date: February 18, 2019
Case Type: Criminal Procedure
The Supreme Court of Georgia held that Article I, Section 1, Paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution provided protections that were not provided by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and, as a result, portions of the state's implied consent law which allowed refusals to submit to a state-administered breath test, were invalid. Elliott was arrested after violating a number of traffic laws and refusing to submit to a state-administered breath test. She filed a motion to suppress her refusal to submit to the test, claiming that it violated her right against compelled self-incrimination. The trial court denied her motion and she appealed.

The Court, performing an analysis of constitutional construction, held that the state owed no obedience to federal decisions interpreting the Fifth Amenndment when interpreting the Georgia Constitution. Referencing the recent decision of Olevik v. State, 302 Ga. 228 (2017), the Court held that it must first interpret the Georgia Constitution by discerning the original public meaning of Paragraph XVI. The Court adhered to the decision in Olevik and determined that there was nothing in Paragraph XVI that rebutted the presumption that the scope of the right against compelled self-incriminatoin had changed. As a result, the Court held that admission of evidence that a defendant refused to submit to a chemical test of breath violated Paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution. The Court noted that the decision could have implications for the continuing validity of the implied consent notice as it applied to breah tests and that revising that notice was a power reserved to the General Assembly.