Licata v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
Michael Licata's vehicle was stopped by police because it matched the description of a vehicle that had recently been in an accident and had significant front-end damage. Prior to the stop, sparks were coming off the asphalt as Licata had been driving on the vehicle’s rims. The police officer who ultimately arrested Licata approached Licata and confirmed with Licata that Licata had been involved in an accident. The arresting officer told Licata that he wanted to discuss the accident but he wanted to read Miranda warnings to Licata first. After doing so, the arresting officer asked Licata several questions about the accident. A short time later, the officer asked Licata to perform field sobriety tests. Licata complied and failed the tests. The officer then placed Licata under arrest for DUI less safe, read the implied consent warning, and asked Licata if he would submit to a breath test. Licata twice asked to call his attorney but was denied that request. Licata ultimately responded that he would not submit to a breath test. Following his arrest and prior to trial, Licata sought to suppress the results of his field sobriety tests and evidence that he refused to submit to the breath test. The trial court granted Licata’s motion, concluding that the field sobriety evaluations should have been suppressed because Licata was in custody and was not informed that he had a right to refuse to perform incriminating acts, a right protected by Article I, Section I, Paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution of 1983. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider what, if any, Miranda-type warning law enforcement must give before asking a suspect in custody to perform acts protected by Paragraph XVI, and whether a suspect in custody is entitled to the advice of counsel when asked to submit to a state-administered breath test. After its review of the record, the Court determined Licata was not actually in custody. Therefore, it affirmed the Court of Appeals’s ultimate conclusion that the field sobriety tests were admissible, without answering the first question. The Court declined to resolve the issue regarding the advice of counsel, because it was pertinent only to the the admissibility of Licata’s refusal to submit to a breath test, and this determination must be reconsidered in the light of our recent opinion in Elliott v. Georgia (Case No. S18A1204, decided February 18, 2019), wherein the Court concluded refusal evidence was inadmissible. Therefore, the Court of Appeals’ opinion regarding the admissibility of the refusal evidence was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings.