My 18 yr old daughter was laying on the beach minding her own business watching some teenagers play volleyball when the local cops showed up and started asking the teens to open their coolers and then proceeded to take breath tests from each of person that would consent. My question is 1) did they have the right to search the coolers and 2)were the teens required to submit to the breath tests? I would like to know if they had the right to decline the search and the test and what the consequences would have been.
Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
They can decline the tests with respect to the breath and the police are able to search their coolers. The cooler search is not a 4th amendment violation and is probably done in response to safety concerns. If consent has already been given then it is too late. Perhaps alcohol or glass is prohibited on that particular beach.
Criminal Defense Attorney
In regards to your first question, if may depend on a couple of things. If the police had a report of underage persons drinking, then that would more than likely give them probable cause to search the coolers. On the other hand, and I can't imagine this is the case, but it could be, the city where the beach is located may have some rule about entering the beach and not having alcoholic beverages and their having the right to search. I don't know that that is the case and have never seen that, but just a thought.
As to the second test, I would say no, they were no required to submit to a breath test. Unless the officer had some reason to believe they were intoxicated, they do not have the right to test anyone at any time to see if they have been drinking. If someone had signs of intoxication, then probable cause might be established, but without those signs, testing people in this fashion is unconstitutional. They can decline the breath test. The officer has no right to arrest anyone without probable cause or issue a ticket. Therefore, there should be no consequences to declining to take a breath test where the officers have no reason to believe you are intoxicated.
DUI / DWI Attorney
The officers can always ask for consent, and your daughter had the right to refuse. Whether or not the police had probable cause to conduct a search without her consent is going to depend on many unknown facts. Your daughter has the right to refuse the breath test without consequence, but they can still charge her with minor in possession of alcohol based on the circumstances alone even without a breath test.
James L. Yeargan, Jr. is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. All information given is based only on Georgia law, and is not directly applicable to any other jurisdictions, states, or districts. Any answer given assumes the person who asked the question holds a Georgia Drivers License, and this license is not a commercial drivers license (CDL). This response, or any response, is not legal advice. This response, or any response, does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information. Any state specific concerns should be directed to an attorney who is licensed to practice law in that respective state.