Posts

DUI: Drugs

DUI drugs charges can be a source of confusion for defendants and lawyers alike. This article will explore these laws and explain their meaning, what must be proven, how they are proven, and how to defend against them.

There are three ways to charge DUI Drugs cases: (1) DUI Drugs – Less Safe; (2) DUI Drugs – Per Se; and (3) DUI Drugs – Combined Effect.

DUI Drugs – Less Safe

Georgia law prohibits a person from driving a vehicle while under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391(a)(2). This “less safe” statute requires proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the quantity or amount of the prescribed, illicit, or even over-the-counter drug in the person’s system caused impairment or rendered the person to be a “less safe driver.” Therefore, a person can be prosecuted even though the drugs were legally prescribed or were provided over-the-counter, so long as consuming those drugs caused you to be a less safe driver.

The “less safe” provision is the most common way DUI drugs charges are prosecuted. The State is not required to prove the accused had a particular level of drugs in their system. As a result, the State may prosecute even though no chemical test exists. The arresting officer will look for the following indications of impairment:

  • Admitting to using drugs
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Presence of drugs in vehicle or on person
  • Bad driving
  • Poor performance on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The key to defending these “less safe” drugs cases is raising doubt as to whether the drugs taken were the actual cause of the bad driving complained of. This causation element is something the State is required to prove. There are many reasons for bad driving unrelated to the consumption of drugs. In addition, defense counsel should raise challenges to the arresting officer’s training and experience in detecting and investigating DUI Drugs cases. In many instances, the arresting officer does not have the degree of training required to properly investigate these cases such as an officer who is qualified as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Furthermore, defense counsel should raise a Harper challenge to the scientific validity of the Romberg Field Sobriety test if that test was performed by the accused. [1]

DUI Drugs – Per Se

Georgia law makes it illegal for a person to operate a vehicle while there is any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in O.C.G.A. § 16-13-21, present in the person’s blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether any alcohol is present in the person’s breath or blood. O.C.G.A. 40-6-391(a)(6).

Given the language of the law, the mere presence of a drug (prescribed or not) will constitute a violation of this code section. The question becomes how an arresting officer would know whether the accused had a valid prescription or not? Without an admission, this would be difficult for a prosecutor to prove.

Issues of proof aside, Love v. State, 271 Ga. 398 (1999), has essentially wiped out the “DUI Drugs – Per Se” law entirely. The Love case held that O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(6), was too broadly drawn, as it incriminates both legal and non-legal users of marijuana, constituting a violation of the Equal Protection clause of both the Georgia and United States Constitutions. This is the primary reason most DUI Drugs cases are prosecuted as “Less Safe” cases.

What remains of the DUI Drugs – Per Se statute is to punish those cases where someone is driving with drugs in their system which offer no lawful use (cocaine, heroin, etc.).

DUI Drugs – Combined Influence

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(a)(4), a person is prohibited from driving a vehicle while under the influence of any two or more of the substances provided in the DUI code section (alcohol, drugs, or toxic vapors) to the extent it is less safe for the person to drive.

Again, we see the State being required to prove the accused was a less safe driver because of the combined effects of two or more intoxicants (alcohol and drugs – prescribed or not). Although these cases present greater challenges, a skilled attorney can raise doubt as to whether the combined effect of intoxicants actually caused less safe driving.  

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.


[1] The Romberg test consists of the subject tilting their head back, closing their eyes, and counting in their head until the subject believes thirty seconds has elapsed and then telling the officer when they believe those thirty seconds had elapsed.

Is DUI a Felony?

In most instances, the crime of DUI is considered a misdemeanor in Georgia. A misdemeanor is defined as a crime that has a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail. If this is your first time being charged with a DUI and no one was hurt, you will be facing a misdemeanor DUI.  Additionally, even if this is your second or third DUI in a short period of time, your DUI will still be charged as a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Punishments

Even if you are facing a misdemeanor-level DUI, the State can stack punishment, and request a longer sentence by adding additional jail time to an underlying charge. For example, if you are charged with DUI and Failure to Maintain Lane, the Judge can sentence you up to 12 months on each charge, for a total of 24 months in custody. Additionally, misdemeanor DUIs do still appear on criminal histories and can require jail, probation, and a license suspension if you are convicted. The goal after a DUI arrest is to avoid a criminal conviction so you can avoid the harsh punishments associated with a conviction for DUI. 

When DUI is a Felony

There are situations where you will be facing a felony after a DUI arrest. A felony is defined as a crime that is punishable more than a year in jail. The first instance is when you are being charged with a fourth DUI within a 10 year period, measured from the dates of previous arrests. A fourth DUI within 10 years is a felony in Georgia, with considerable mandatory minimum jail time if convicted.

Another situation where a DUI is considered a felony in Georgia is if you were arrested for the crime of Serious Injury by Vehicle. This occurs when someone causes an accident resulting in bodily harm while Driving under the Influence. This felony is punished by imprisonment between 1 and 15 years. Bodily harm under Georgia law is defined as an injury to another person which deprives them of a member of their body, or renders part of the body useless, or seriously disfigures, or causes brain damage. There are certainly defenses to this serious crime including the causal connection as well as what constitutes a serious injury.

The final situation where a DUI is prosecuted as a felony offense is Homicide by Vehicle in the first degree, meaning you are arrested for DUI and someone actually dies in the accident. You can be charged with Homicide by Vehicle if it is your passenger who dies.  If convicted, the crime is punishable from 3-15 years. The law requires the State to prove a causal connection between the violation of the DUI statute and the victim’s death. However, under Georgia law, the person does not actually have to commit an unsafe act before facing this type of charge.

Call us today!

DUIs in Georgia require knowledgeable and skillful representation as the stakes are high. If you are facing a felony DUI, it is imperative to find a law firm with a track record of success, who are well-informed on the ever-changing aspects of DUI law in Georgia. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI, whether it be a misdemeanor or felony DUI, call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999. 

Driver’s License & New DUI Law

In May of 2019 the Georgia legislature approved a new implied consent warning for persons who have been arrested for DUI in Georgia. The implied consent warning informs drivers that Georgia law requires them to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test after they have been arrested for DUI; and submitting a sample that’s over the legal limit of .08 or refusing to submit to the requested test after arrest can result in a suspension of your drivers license.

What’s New?

This new implied consent notice removes a part of the old language that states “Your refusal to submit to breath testing can be used against you at trial.” This occurred after a Georgia Supreme Court opinion which stated that your refusal to submit to breath test evidence cannot be used against you at trial. However, this ruling is only related to the breath test option. Refusing to submit to blood and urine testing can still be introduced against you at trial.

What we have found after evaluating this new implied consent warning is that most well-trained officers are now just asking for a blood test instead of a breath test. Your refusal to submit to a blood test can be used to suspend your license as well as it can be used against you at trial.

Call us TODAY!

The law in relation to DUI cases in Georgia is constantly evolving. Having a well-trained lawyer on your side is the best way to maintain your ability to drive and keep a DUI conviction off your record. Our staff of attorneys is trained by the sane trainers who are teaching law enforcement officers to investigate DUI cases. Call our office today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

DUI: Blood Alcohol Concentration

This blog article serves to discuss how Georgia law handles varying Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels, from 0.00% to 0.08% and beyond.

BAC of 0.05% or Less

If a chemical test of your blood or breath falls within this range, then the law[1]provides the defense with a presumption of non-impairment. This means the trier of fact (judge or jury) is entitled to infer that the defendant is not impaired based on this low alcohol concentration. This presumption of non-impairment, may however, be rebutted by the prosecution. Typically, this is done through presenting evidence of “bad driving” (accident, traffic violation, etc.), or through other manifestations associated with alcohol impairment. If your blood alcohol comes back in an amount this low, a skilled DUI lawyer should be able to get the charge dismissed or reduced.

BAC Greater than 0.05%  but Less than 0.08%

In this situation, the law provides no inference the person was or was not under the influence of alcohol. This BAC range is treated as neutral territory, it doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t help either. Again, this evidence is to be taken into consideration with other competent evidence determining impairment.

BAC Greater 0.08% or More

A BAC of 0.08 grams or greater amounts to a per se violation of the DUI statute. This means the law automatically deems you impaired, regardless of alcohol tolerance. For this reason, it is imperative defense counsel do anything possible to eliminate this BAC number from being introduced at trial. And if the BAC is admitted at trial, the defense lawyer is tasked with casting doubt on the validity of the BAC result. This can be accomplished through effective cross-examination, employment of an expert witness, and a thorough investigation of the case.

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.


[1] O.C.G.A. § 40-6-392(b)(1)

CDL & Georgia DUI Law

Truck drivers possessing a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) are treated differently than other motorists facing a DUI charge in Georgia. This blog article aims to discuss those differences.

CDL Holders Are Held to a Higher Standard

For the majority of drivers in Georgia,[1] a person may be convicted of DUI if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at 0.08% or more while driving. If a CDL driver, however, is stopped for DUI while operating a commercial vehicle, the legal BAC limit is 0.04%.

Consequences of a Refusal of Chemical Test or DUI Conviction

While you may refuse the State administered test of blood, breath, or urine, CDL drivers face severe consequences for refusing and for being convicted. The driver of a commercial vehicle who is convicted of DUI while operating a commercial vehicle, or who refuses to submit to a chemical test, is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for a period of not less than one year. This disqualification is in addition to any license suspension imposed for a DUI conviction.   Because of these harsher punishments, it is critically important you hire a skilled attorney to defend the case.

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.


[1] Except for drivers less than 21 years of age and CDL drivers.

Georgia Underage DUI

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(k) prohibits a person under the age of 21 to have a BAC of, “0.02 grams or more at any time within three hours after” driving a vehicle, from alcohol consumed prior to driving. This 0.02 BAC limit is substantially lower than the 0.08 limit provided for those aged 21 and over. Underage persons convicted under this code section are subject to the same penalties as adults, except in regards to periods of imprisonment and license suspensions.

Underage DUI Sentencing

Under O.C.G.A. § 17-10-3.1, if a judge orders an underage person to serve a prison sentence in conjunction with a first DUI conviction, the sentencing judge has the authority and discretion to “allow the sentence to be served on weekends by weekend confinement or during the nonworking hours of the defendant.” In addition, if this is the underage defendant’s first DUI, the defendant “shall be kept segregated from all other offenders” other than similar underage DUI offenders.

License Suspension

Regarding license suspension, upon a first conviction, drivers under 21 will have their license suspended for either six months or twelve months, depending on the BAC measurement. If the BAC is less than 0.08 grams, the period of suspension is for six months. Otherwise, the period of suspension is for twelve months. Importantly, the driver is ineligible for a driving permit and no early reinstatement is available. A new driver’s license will not be issued without proof of completion of the risk reduction program and payment equivalent to the driver’s license restoration fee for a suspended license ($200 or $210).  Finally, the driver shall, as an additional prerequisite for license reinstatement, be required to successfully complete the examination requirements of O.C.G.A. § 40-5-27 (driver’s license exam).

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.

by Casey Cleaver

Georgia Supreme Court Update – Elliott v. State

Today, the Supreme Court of Georgia, released an opinion in the case of Elliott v. State that will impact every DUI case in the State of Georgia where the Defendant refused to submit to a chemical test of their breath after being read the Georgia Implied Consent Notice. The holding of the opinion states that if a Defendant elects to assert their right against self-incrimination under Paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution by refusing to consent to a breath test after being arrested for DUI, that assertion of the defendant’s right to refuse cannot be introduced against them during their criminal case.

Facts of the Case

The facts at issue in this case are that Ms. Elliott was arrested for DUI in 2015. After arrest she was read the Georgia Implied Consent Notice and the officer requested she submit to a breath test. Ms. Elliott refused to submit to a breath test. Her attorney during a motion to suppress argued that the refusal to submit to the breath test under the Georgia Implied Consent Notice should be suppressed because Ms. Elliott was asserting her Paragraph XVI right under the Georgia Constitution. The trial court ruled against Ms. Elliott, allowing her refusal to be tendered as evidence at trial. The Supreme Court heard this case on direct appeal by her attorney.

The opinion, written by Justice Nels Peterson dives deep into the history of Paragraph XVI of the Georgia Constitution, from its English Common Law history, to early United States Constitutional interpretation, early Georgia case law prior to the adoption of the 1877 Georgia Constitution, and finally to our current 1983 Georgia Constitution. Paragraph XVI reads, “No person shall be compelled to give testimony ending in any manner to be self-incriminating.” (GA. Const. Art. I. Sec. 1. Par. XVI. 1983) The question at issue in this case is, does Paragraph XVI protect compelled acts, specifically breath testing under the right against self-incrimination. The Court, in a unanimous decision agrees that the refusal to submit to breath testing under the Georgia Implied Consent Notice cannot be introduced against a Defendant at trial. Prior to this holding the refusal to submit to the breath test could be used as a presumption that alcohol was found in your system.

Call us today!

The holding today could have further ramifications for both the constitutionality of the Georgia Implied Consent Notice and the introduction of breath test results at trial without being warned of your right against self-incrimination. There are other cases pending in the Supreme Court that should address those issues this year. If you have any questions regarding how this ruling may impact your DUI case, call us today at 404-581-0999.

Field Sobriety: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

What is Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus?


The HGN test evaluates abnormal eye movement caused by the influence of an intoxicant such as alcohol or drugs. Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking movement of the eye.[1] There are several forms of nystagmus or jerking of the eyes. Of the forty-plus types of medically recognized nystagmus, officers are trained on only three categories; vestibular, neural, and pathological disorders and diseases. Furthermore gaze nystagmus is only one of three types of neural nystagmus. Because there are so many types of nystagmus, it is easy for an officer to confuse the nystagmus they believe is caused by alcohol with another type of nystagmus not caused by alcohol but some other condition. Such other conditions include, but are not limited to: mental disorders, vertigo, inner ear fluid imbalance, head trauma, stroke, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and stroke. Therefore, it is incredibly important the test be properly administered as to rule out other types of nystagmus not caused by an intoxicant which may mimic the nystagmus caused by intoxicants.

Measurements

Measurement of nystagmus is accomplished through three different methods. (These are known as the “six clues” recognized by NHTSA as valid indicators of HGN; that is, three clues for each eye). The first measuring technique is to look for lack of “smooth pursuit,” i.e., rather than following a moving object smoothly, the eye jumps or tugs. This technique is not a description of nystagmus. It is a condition that can result from many factors, such as the flashing blue lights of the officer’s vehicle or the passing lights of other motorists (optokinetic nystagmus).

           
The second method of measurement is to determine whether the nystagmus becomes more “distinct” when the eye is moved to the lateral extreme (so no white is apparent between pupil and outer edge of eye). Again, many people can have nystagmus or nystagmoid-like eye movement at this point of extreme lateral gaze and not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

           
The third method is to measure the angle of onset of nystagmus. By measuring the angle at which the eyes begin jerking. Nystagmus as a result of an intoxicant should begin at or before the 45 degree angle from the straight ahead gaze. There should be a fast component in the direction of gaze, with a slow recovery phase back towards center.

Pre-Test Checks

HGN testing should be preceded by a series of questions designed to ensure the subject is not medically disqualified from taking the test. “Officers are reminded to ask questions about the subject’s eye and general health conditions prior to administering the HGN test.”[1] Additionally, “if there are any abnormal findings on the pre‐test checks, the officer may choose not to continue with the testing. If HGN testing is continued, officers are reminded this does not follow the standardized protocol and should acknowledge such in any report.”[2] After asking these preliminary medical clearance questions, the officer is ready to proceed with administering the test.

Test Procedures

To properly administer the HGN test, the officer must:

  1. have the suspect remove his eye glasses;
  2. properly instruct the suspect that the officer is going to check his eyes and that his is to hold his head still and follow the stimulus with his eyes only and to keep following it until he is told to stop;
  3. hold the stimulus 12-15 inches in front of the subject’s face;
  4. check to determine if both eyes track the movement together (equal tracking), check for resting nystagmus (caused by certain medical conditions unrelated to alcohol consumption) and to ensure the pupils are of the same size (this step rules out other potential causes of nystagmus unrelated to alcohol consumption);
  5. keep the tip of the stimulus slightly above the subject’s eyes;
  6. always move the stimulus smoothly across the subject’s entire field of vision;
  7. always check for all 3 clues in both eyes, starting with the left eye;
  8. check the clues in this sequence: lack of smooth pursuit; distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation; onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees;
  9. always check for each clue at least twice in each eye;
  10. the typical time for each pass is two seconds out and two seconds back;
  11. when checking for distinct nystagmus at maximum deviation, the officer is to hold the subject’s eyes in the extreme position for at least four seconds;
  12. when checking for the onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees, it should take the officer 4 seconds to move the stimulus from the suspect’s nose to the angle—once jerking of the eye is first observed the officer is to stop moving the stimulus to ensure the jerking continues (validate nystagmus);
  13. total the clues (need to observe at least four out of six clues to indicate impairment); and
  14. check for vertical gaze nystagmus (separate test to determine if subject has taken a high dose for that particular subject).

Is HGN Accurate?


 In September, 2007, NHTSA conducted another study, “The Robustness of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test.” This study examined HGN in depth and, amongst other experiments, tested the false positive rates associated with improper administration of HGN. A false positive indicates a subject whose BAC was below 0.08 but the examiner nonetheless observed four out of six clues. The results were surprising. Evenwhen properly administered, 36.1% of test subjects falsely exhibited a positive result. Subjects whose stimulus was held too low (at eye level) exhibited a false positive rate of 52.7%.Subjects whose stimulus was held too high (four inches above eye level) exhibited a false positive rate of 61.1%. This is just one example of how one small error in administering the HGN test can produce a false result.

Summary

Attorneys need to be familiar with the instructor and participant NHTSA manuals, new case law, and the facts of their case to ensure the HGN test is properly administered and interpreted. As we saw, even the slightest deviation can compromise the validity of the test. For non-lawyers, it is important to know the HGN test, along with the other FSTs (discussed in Part III and IV), are entirely voluntary. Therefore, you should never consent to the participation of FSTs.           

  If you have 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.

by Casey Cleaver


[1] Session 8, page 29 of 95.

[2] Session 8, page 29 of 95.


[1] The NHTSA manual defines Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) as, “involuntary jerking of the eyes, occurring as the eyes gaze side to side. In addition to being voluntary, [the] person is usually unaware it is happening [and] the person is powerless to stop it or control it.” The Manual also states that, “alcohol and certain other drugs cause HGN.” Session 8, page 18 of 95.

Georgia DUI Blood Cases

Can The Government Take My Blood for DUI?

This section addresses the question of how law enforcement can legally obtain an individual’s blood in the context of a DUI arrest. Generally speaking, a law enforcement agent may obtain a person’s blood in three ways:

  • Pursuant to a lawful search warrant;
  • The presence of an emergency circumstance; and
  • Through that person’s consent
  • Search Warrant

“A suspect’s right under the Fourth Amendment to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the compelled withdrawal of blood, and the extraction of blood is a search within the meaning of the Georgia Constitution.” Williams v. State, 296 Ga. 817, 819 (2015). There are generally two types of searches, those with a search warrant and those without. Warrantless searches are per se unreasonable, “subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.” Id.

Therefore, if a police officer can obtain a valid search warrant for your blood, then they are entitled to draw your blood for purposes of investigating a DUI. It is important to note that even though your blood may have been drawn legally; there are still viable defenses to blood analysis (discussed in section below).  

Emergency Circumstances

One of the “specifically established and well-delineated exceptions” to the search warrant requirement is the presence of exigent [emergency] circumstances. But what constitutes an emergency circumstance? The answer is . . . it depends.

Georgia case law used to say that because intoxicants naturally dissipate in the body over time, this fact alone provided the exigency (emergency). Essentially, this meant that because the evidence of intoxication would disappear over time, the police would be prevented from obtaining that evidence if there was not enough time to get a search warrant. The Supreme Court of Georgia later adopted the United States Supreme Court’s decision rejecting this line of thought. The law now states that just because you have alcohol or another intoxicant in your system, that fact by itself does not create an exigency (emergency) justifying the drawing of a person’s blood. Instead, the court held, “whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable [is to] be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances.”[1]

The resulting rule is that rather than automatically being entitled to drawing blood just because intoxicants naturally dissipate over time, courts will review police conduct on a case by case basis to determine whether an emergency situation exists sufficient to justify a blood draw.[2]

Defending Blood Test Cases

Analysis of a DUI suspect’s blood for intoxicants (alcohol or drugs) is considered to be the most reliable method of obtaining an accurate reading of a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). This scientific procedure is designed to determine the amount of alcohol present in a person’s blood at a given time.

The BAC results from a blood analysis can be inaccurate, however, for a number of reasons:

  • Human error in performing the blood testing;
  • Flawed preservation and handling techniques of the blood sample;
  • Improperly maintained or malfunctioning machines which measure results;
  • Testing of blood plasma rather than whole blood can produce higher BAC readings;
  • Trauma or other incidents suffered by hospitalized suspect may affect BAC readings

Peach State Lawyers have been trained to attack the following aspects of blood test cases:

  • Qualifications of the person who drew the blood;
  • Qualifications of the analyst;
  • Whether the analyst followed laboratory procedures;
  • Whether the machine measuring results was working properly;
  • Whether the blood sample itself flowed through the proper chain of custody; and
  • Whether the analyst is required to testify

If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, do not hesitate to contact our office. Our highly skilled and experienced attorneys will work tirelessly to resolve your case. Feel free to call us 24 hours a day at 404.581.0999.

[1]  Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U. S. ___ (133 S.Ct. 1552, 1563, 185 LE2d 696) (2013)

[2] An potential example of such an emergency case is where there is a car accident and a DUI suspect is not located for several hours and after the suspect is found the police believe they do not have time to obtain a warrant; but they know if they do not get a blood sample soon, the possible evidence of intoxication will be lost.

 

by Casey Cleaver

Georgia DUI- What to Do

Remain calm. Getting pulled over by the police is a stressful experience. By keeping cool and following these tips you will greatly decrease the likelihood of a DUI arrest and/or conviction.

Pull Over!

At this point the police officer will be documenting everything you do. You should slow down, signal, and pull over to the nearest and safest place possible. Even if you believe the officer is going to stop someone else, state law requires drivers to yield to emergency vehicles with activated lights.

Put your car in park, engage the parking brake, and turn off the engine. Roll down both driver and passenger front windows as the officer may approach from either side. You don’t have to roll the windows all the way down, just enough as to where the officer can clearly see and hear you. However, if the officer asks you to roll them all the way down, do so.

Place both hands on the steering wheel so the officer can clearly see them. Do not move your hands out of sight or in a fast motion. Doing so could unnecessarily escalate the situation. Also, address the officer as: officer, sir, or ma’am. Respect goes a long way with law enforcement, especially if they suspect you of DUI.

Have Your Documents Ready

Be sure to always keep your updated proof of insurance, driver’s license, and vehicle registration in a place that is easily accessible. If you are fumbling around or have difficulty in producing these items, the officer will perceive this as evidence of impairment and include it in their report. By keeping these documents together and accessible, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.

What to Say

Say as little as possible. Remember, everything you say and do is being documented in the officer’s mind and may also be recorded on a body or dash camera or microphone. Your answers to questions, and any inconsistencies in those answers, will be used in court against you if you are arrested for DUI. In addition, the less you say the less likely an officer can reasonably testify to you having “slurred speech” or “odor of alcohol” coming from your breath. These phrases appear frequently in Georgia DUI cases.  

The officer will likely begin the encounter by asking something like, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” This question is designed to get you in trouble. The best way to answer this question is by simply saying, “no.” By saying, “yes” you invite having to explain yourself. If you admit to breaking a traffic law, you not only establish probable cause to arrest for the traffic violation, but you also bolster the officer’s decision to stop your vehicle.

Next, the officer will likely ask you questions like:

  • Have you been drinking tonight?
  • How much have you drank tonight?
  • What did you drink tonight?
  • Where are you coming from?
  • Where are you going?

DO NOT ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS. Instead, politely say something to the effect of, “I do not wish to answer these questions.” If the officer tries to force the issue, politely ask if you need to get a lawyer.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you ever, ever, admit to drinking or describe how many drinks you’ve had. By doing so you are practically begging for the officer to arrest you, or at least thoroughly investigate you for DUI.

Decline to Perform Field Sobriety Tests

If an officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, do it. But DO NOT agree to perform any field sobriety tests (eye tests, alphabet tests, numerical counting tests, walking tests, balancing tests, etc.) DO NOT agree to a roadside breath test (portable breath test). Although the BAC number of a portable breath test is inadmissible (as opposed to the much larger Intoxilyzer breath machine at the police station or jail) , a positive result is a green light for the officer to arrest for DUI. A simple, “no thank you” or “I respectfully refuse” should be sufficient.

These tests are voluntary and are designed elicit failure. The officer who is deciding whether to arrest you will be the sole judge of your performance. Even if stone sober, you should decline to perform field sobriety tests.

If You Are Arrested…

Do not argue with the officer, you will not win. Do not ask for sympathy or try to explain why you cannot be arrested (work, children, etc.); you will only hurt your case. Remain silent. Again, everything you say can and will be used against you. ASK TO SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY even if the officer does not advise you of your right to an attorney.

When You Get to the Police Station

ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY. Renew your earlier request to speak with an attorney. This will prevent the officer from asking you additional questions until you have spoken with an attorney. Call us at 404.581.0999 and we will be glad to assist you. If you have the opportunity to meet with an attorney, be sure to ask the officer for privacy.

DO NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS. If arrested, the officer is supposed to advise you of your 5th Amendment Rights before questioning you. DO NOT WAIVE YOUR RIGHTS by voluntarily speaking with police. REMAIN SILENT. If you do not understand your rights, tell the officer you do not understand your rights. The officer cannot offer legal advice but does have to clarify confusion about the consequences of taking or refusing a test.

Exercise Caution in Agreeing to a Chemical Test  

Be extremely careful in deciding whether to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine. Chemical tests are a double-edged sword. Refusing a chemical test benefits you by depriving the officer of potentially incriminating evidence produced by the test. But, if you refuse you suffer a “hard suspension” of your driving privileges for one year. If you have consumed a significant amount of alcohol, you should refuse the State chemical testing.

If you do submit to a chemical test ASK FOR AN ADDITIONAL INDEPENDENT TEST. You have the right to independent testing and the officer must reasonably assist you in obtaining the test.

Talk to a DUI Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, do not hesitate to call us. The offense of DUI is a vast and complex collection of laws that continue to puzzle lawyers and judges alike. Our office will assist in defending your case and getting the best resolution possible.

 

by Casey Cleaver