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Supreme Court rules against Gwinnett DUI suspect

ATLANTA -- Georgia's highest court ruled against a Gwinnett man who has sought to suppress results of Breathalyzer tests in a 2009 traffic stop in Duluth, claiming his constitutional rights had been violated because he wasn't immediately informed of test results.

In an opinion released Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the appellate court, finding that law officers do not have a constitutional duty to immediately inform DUI suspects of the results of breath tests.

Attorneys for Suwanee resident Jyothiswar Padidham argue that failing to immediately provide such results violates federal and state due process rights, and impacts whether or not a suspect should decide to act on their right to seek independent testing.

Justices found that state law requiring officers to inform DUI suspects in a timely manner of their rights to refuse or seek independent testing is sufficient.

"An arrested defendant ... has sufficient information to make a meaningful decision whether to request the independent test," wrote Justice Hugh Thompson.

In February 2009, Padidham was stopped for speeding by a Duluth police officer, who smelled alcohol and observed that Padidham's eyes were bloodshot and watery. Padidham was arrested following field sobriety tests, and after a breath test showed the presence of alcohol, court officials said.

Two tests using the Intoxilyzer 5000 at the Gwinnett County Jail yielded results of .129 and .126, above Georgia's legal limit of .08, officials said.

Padidham did not learn of the results for eight hours, when he was leaving the jail at 10 a.m. and received a copy of the results in his property bag, his attorneys said.

A trial court in Gwinnett had granted a motion filed by Padidham's attorneys to suppress the test results. The attorneys argued the tests were inadmissible because the state had a statutory and constitutional duty to immediately show Padidham the printed results.

The Court of Appeals reversed that decision, finding the trial court was wrong to suppress the alco-sensor test results because Padidham was not in custody when the test was administered.

That the officer gave Padidham the required implied consent notice in a timely manner was not disputed, so authorities were "under no constitutional duty to immediately inform (Padidham) of the results," Thompson wrote.