Georgia DUI investigations usually begin with a routine traffic stop. At a minimum, in order to stop you and your vehicle, the stopping officer needs to have “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to believe a crime has, or is about to be committed. An officer normally satisfies this requirement by observing a traffic or equipment violation. However, if it is determined the officer did NOT have reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop your vehicle; this could result in the suppression of evidence and the ultimate dismissal of a DUI charge.

Therefore,
it is crucial to examine the most common types of traffic violations that
result in a DUI investigation. This article serves to inform you of what type
of things police officers are looking for when stopping for driving while distracted or while using
mobile device
.

The Offense

As of July
1, 2018, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 requires drivers to exercise due care while
operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and prohibits “any
actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such
vehicle.”

In
addition, drivers may not:

(1)
physically hold or support a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone
electronic device, except for the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or
device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice based communication;

(2)
write, send, or read any text-based communication, including text messages,
instant messages, e-mails, or Internet data, other than voice commands that are
converted to text by the device or used for GPS/navigation feature control;

(3)
watch a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone
electronic device, other than watching data related to the navigation of such
vehicle; or

(4)
record or broadcast a video on a wireless telecommunications device or
stand-alone electronic device, other than devices used for the sole purpose of
continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor
vehicle.

Commercial
vehicle drivers are restricted from using more than a single button on a
wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice
communication or reaching for a wireless telecommunications device or
stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no
longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a safety belt.

Exceptions

These
prohibitions do not apply if the driver is:

(1)
reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, an actual or potential
criminal or delinquent act, or road condition which causes an immediate and
serious traffic or safety hazard;

(2) an
employee or contractor of a utility services provider acting within the scope
of his or her employment while responding to a utility emergency;

(3) a
law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel,
ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder
during the performance of his or her official duties; or

(4) in a lawfully parked motor vehicle.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(g).

Punishment

O.C.G.A.
§ 40-6-241(f) states that violations are punished as misdemeanors, as follows:

(A)
For a first conviction with no
conviction of and no plea of nolo contendere accepted to a charge of violating
this Code section within the previous 24 month period of time, as measured from
the dates any previous convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere
were accepted to the date the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo
contendere is accepted, a fine of not
more than $50.00
, but the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any
other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such
prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or
surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for
conviction thereof;

(B)
For a second conviction within a 24
month period of time
, as measured from the dates any previous convictions
were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date the current
conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $100.00, but
the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the
contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor
shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be
assessed against a person for conviction thereof; or

(C) For a third or subsequent conviction within
a 24 month period of time
, as measured from the dates any previous
convictions were obtained or pleas of nolo contendere were accepted to the date
the current conviction is obtained or plea of nolo contendere is accepted, a fine of not more than $150.00, but
the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the
contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor
shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be
assessed against a person for conviction thereof.

A
person convicted of simply holding a mobile device while driving may avoid
conviction if they bring to court a device or proof of purchase of such device
that would allow that person to operate a mobile device hands-free in the
future. However, a person may take advantage of this saving provision only
once. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(f)(2).

Challenging the Stop

Police
officers are looking for distracted drivers, especially those drivers holding
their cell phones while driving. If an officer observes this, they would have a
lawful reason to stop your vehicle, and possibly launch a DUI investigation. As
a result, it is important to challenge the officer’s observations to determine
whether the stopping officer has reasonable and articulable suspicion necessary
to stop your car. The most successful way to accomplish this is to challenge
the officer’s perception. Key issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Distance between
    the officer and your vehicle
  • Angles of
    officer’s observation
  • Traffic
    conditions
  • Lighting
  • Window tint, if
    any
  • Whether you were
    lawfully parked

If you or someone you know has been
arrested for driving under the influence, contact the law firm of W.
Scott Smith at 404.581.0999
 today for a free case evaluation. You’ll find a local Atlanta DUI attorney ready to aggressively fight
on your behalf. You can also find out more detailed information about Atlanta laws here.