Jordan suffered severe brain damage, and he has subsequently lapsed into a coma from which he is not expected to recover, when his automobile collided with an automobile being driven by Ensley. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Ensley, and Jordan, by his next friend, appealed to the Court of Appeals.
In Division 1 of its opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in granting Ensley's motion in limine, which sought to suppress the results of a blood-alcohol test administered to her after the collision. The results of the blood-alcohol test showed that the alcohol content of Ensley's blood was .10% at the time the sample was taken.
The trial court and the Court of Appeals ruled that the results of the test were inadmissible in evidence, because the police officer who had directed Ensley to submit to the test had failed to advise her of her right to an additional test by a qualified person of her own choosing, as required by Code Ann. 68A-902.1 (a) (3) (Ga. L. 1974, pp. 633, 672, as amended).
In Division 2, the Court of Appeals held that even though the evidence of the blood test was inadmissible to establish a presumption that Ensley was driving under the influence, see Code Ann. 68A-902.1 (b), it should have been admitted in evidence for impeachment purposes. See Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (91 SC 643, 28 LE2d 1) (1971).
Ensley had testified that she had consumed two 3- or 4- ounce glasses of wine during the three hours preceding the accident. Jordan presented expert testimony to the effect that it would be impossible for someone of Ensley's weight to acquire a blood-alcohol content of .10%, as shown by the blood test, from ingesting only eight ounces of wine over a three-hour period.
We granted certiorari for the purpose of determining whether a police officer's failure to advise an individual of his right to have an additional test performed by a qualified person of his own choosing renders the results of the state's test inadmissible for impeachment purposes.
We agree with the Court of Appeals that even though breach of the notice requirement of Code Ann. 68A-902.1 (a) renders evidence of the blood test administered by the state inadmissible to establish a presumption that the allegedly drunken driver was driving under the influence, such evidence should be admitted for impeachment purposes in the trial of a civil action such as this. As stated by the Court of Appeals, "The right to impeach witnesses, as set forth in Code 38-1802, is one of the cornerstones of the adversary process. Even evidence which violates constitutional standards of due process, such as unlawfully obtained confessions, may be admitted for impeachment purposes. See Harris v. New York, 401 U.S. 222 (91 SC 643, 28 LE2d 1) (1971). Although the requirements of Code Ann. 68A-902.1, supra, must be adhered to strictly in order for any legal presumption as to sobriety to arise from a state-administered blood-alcohol test, a witness will not be allowed to use his or her rights under this statute as a license to present perjured testimony with impunity." Jordan v. Ensley, 149 Ga. App. 67
, 69 (253 SE2d 414
MARSHALL, Justice, dissenting.
In Nelson v. State, 135 Ga. App. 212 (217 SE2d 450) (1975)
it was held that Code Ann. 68A-902.1 requires an arresting officer to advise an allegedly drunken driver of his right to a chemical test of his blood in addition to the one administered by the state. It was further held in Nelson that the legislature intended that this right be made known to the individual so that he could challenge the accuracy of the chemical test administered by the state, and the failure to so inform him renders the results of state's test inadmissible in evidence. In Garrett v. Dept. of Public Safety, 237 Ga. 413
(228 SE2d 81
2) (1976), this court, in reliance on Nelson, held that the failure to so inform invalidates the results of any test administered by the state.