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VIDEO – Walk and Turn Field Sobriety Test

Imagine a straight line in front of you. Put your left foot on that line. Place your right foot in front of your left foot with your left toe touching your right heel. Put your hands down by your sides and hold that position without moving. Hello, I’m attorney Scott Smith and today we’re talking about the walk and turn field sobriety test, the second of the three standardized field sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration designed for the detection of impaired drivers.

Are you still holding that starting position I discussed in the beginning of this video? It’s tough isn’t it? Now imagine you’re on the side of the interstate with cars passing at seventy miles per hour, or in a parking lot next to a busy intersection with people looking on. You’ve got an officer that’s already told you that the test is to determine whether or not you’re safe to continue to drive. Is it getting more difficult? You haven’t even begun to actually walk the test yet.

The walk and turn field sobriety test provides the officer seventy-six different opportunities to notice eight clues of impairment. If the officer notices only two clues, it gives the officer enough evidence to believe you are an impaired driver.

The eight clues are broken down into two phases. The first phase is the instructional phase. During the instructional phase the officer asks you to get into the position described at the start of the video. During this instructional phase the officer is looking to see if you break that stance of if you start too soon by mimicking the officer’s movements. Those are the first two of eight clues.

During each series of nine steps you take, the officer is looking for four clues on each step. They are looking to see whether you miss touching heel to toe, whether you step off your line, whether you stop walking at any point during the step taking, or whether or not you use your arms for balance.

There are two final in the walking phase. One is for not turning exactly as instructed by the officer, and the final clue is for taking the incorrect number of steps in either series of nine steps, going out or coming back.

Does this test seem difficult to you to pass? The test isn’t designed to be passed. It is designed to show the officer clues of impairment to help them justify arresting you. We recommend to all our clients to politely refuse to participate in field sobriety testing, especially the dexterity testing. Do not help the officer make their case.

Our team of experienced Georgia DUI attorneys are trained just like the police officers in how to properly perform field sobriety evaluations. We are trained to look at each test and break down whether or not the instructions are correct, whether the officer demonstrated it correctly, and whether or not you actually exhibited the clues the officer said he saw at the time of you conducting these tests.

If you’ve been stopped for DUI and you are worried about your performance on the walk and turn field sobriety test, or whether or not you’ve just got questions for us, call our office today for a free consultation. We’re available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Our telephone number is 404-581-0999.

Thank you.

VIDEO – What Happens to Your Georgia Drivers License After You Are Arrested for DUI in Georgia

You’ve been arrested for DUI in Georgia. The officer has read you Georgia’s Implied Consent Notice, requesting a blood or breath test. What do you do? What happens if you refuse to take the State’s test? Can you get a permit to drive to work or school? What happens to your drivers license after DUI arrest in Georgia?

Watch the video below and call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation or to answer your questions.

What happens to your Georgia Driver’s License after DUI arrest in Georgia?

Hello, I’m attorney Scott Smith and today we’re talking about what happens to your Georgia Driver’s License after you’ve been arrested for DUI here in Georgia.

You’re arrested for DUI. You’re read from an orange card asking for a blood or breath test and then later the police officer takes your license from you. In its place he hands you a sheet of paper called a DDS 1205 form. I’ve got an example right here. It has some basic information on the top and on the bottom it says notice of license suspension and temporary driving permit.

Can the officer take my license from me? What is this sheet of paper? Why did I receive it?

That piece of paper is going to act as your temporary Georgia driver’s license. In Georgia, our law allows the police officer to take your license from you and return it to the Department of Driver Services, also known as DDS for suspension by simply being suspected of DUI. That piece of paper that the officer gives you in place of your license states your license will be suspended in thirty days if you do not request an appeal of the suspension within ten business days from the date of your arrest. In essence, you only have ten days to prevent an automatic suspension of your license. If you don’t appeal the pending suspension, your license gets suspended.

You may lose your ability to drive for one year. If you are arrested for DUI and you did not give the officer the test they requested, that means a one year suspension with no ability to get a work permit to drive for work. If you did give the requested sample, and the result was over the legal limit, you may be eligible for a work permit.

At our office of experienced Atlanta criminal defense attorneys, we can look at your case, let you know if you need to submit a request for appeal, help you make sure your appeal is submitted correctly so you do not lose your right to drive, and we’ll even give you a copy of the ten day letter which you can submit on your own to get the process started.

Don’t lose your ability to drive after a DUI arrest. Call us today at 404-581-0999. Thank you.

DUI Refusal Reaches the Supreme Court

SUPREME COURT UPDATE:  Can they charge me with a crime for refusing the breath test?

On April 20, 2016, the Supreme Court heard argument on Birchfield v. North Dakota.  The case addressed the question of whether a State can criminalize the refusal to submit to a chemical test of blood, breath, or urine without a warrant.   In both Minnesota and North Dakota, it is a separate crime to refuse to take the State chemical test.   Prosecutors for both the State of Minnesota and the State of North Dakota argued that an officer’s request for a breath sample without a warrant protects against evidence spoiling (BAC dropping over a period of time).  Interestingly, the Supreme Court Justice’s peppered both lawyers with factual scenarios about the reality that, with today’s technological capabilities, it is fairly easy for a police officer to contact a magistrate judge to obtain a warrant.   Interestingly, the Justices did not focus all of their tough questions towards the State.  It appears that the Justices had significant feelings about the minimally invasive nature of a breath test in comparison with a blood test.  There also seemed to be some confusion about the use of a roadside portable breath test versus a State administered breath test at the jail.

Georgia currently does not have a criminal penalty for refusing to take the State administered breath test.  Instead, Georgia law allows officers to request a civil penalty (loss of your license for 12 months) for refusing to take the State administered blood/breath/urine test.   However, the decision of the Supreme Court will almost certainly impact Georgia DUI cases going forward.   If the court were to side with the defendants in this case, we certainly can expect the opinion to express strong 4th amendment language that could impact other types of DUI cases.   On the other hand, if the court were to side with the State of Minnesota and North Dakota, we can expect other States, Georgia included, to introduce legislation that would criminalize the refusal of a State administered test.

Our lawyers will be watching closely when the Supreme Court releases their opinion this fall.  For more information about the case, check out the oral arguments at:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2015/14-1468   and

http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/04/argument-analysis-criminal-penalties-for-refusal-to-take-a-breathalyzer-test-in-jeopardy/

We will certainly provide an update when the Supreme Court releases their final ruling.

Making A Murderer: Pointing the Finger in Georgia

MAKING A MURDERER: Pointing the Finger in Georgia

The Netflix documentary Making a Murderer brought to light several issues with our justice system. Two of the most important issues a defense attorney has to overcome is the “presumption of guilt” presented by the media, and the loss of exculpatory evidence caused by poor police investigations.

“Presumption of Guilt”

“All due respect to counsel, the state is supposed to start every criminal trial swimming upstream. And the strong current against which the state is swimming is the presumption of innocence.” – Dean Strang, co-defense counsel for Steven Avery.

Many times, the media will broadcast inflammatory stories regarding pending investigations. Regardless of the truth of the stories, they tend to irreparably tamper with the minds of the prospective jurors months or even years before the trial begins.

The law requires jurors to give the defendant the presumption of innocence, but many jurors are already biased against the defendant because he has been charged with a crime and is seated at the defense table. High-profile cases present an additional hurdle because the jurors have already heard many untrue facts about the case from the media.

We rarely encourage clients to make statements to police or media since those statements can be used against them at trial. In fact, the best way to truly prove one’s innocence to the public is to have a jury find you NOT GUILTY. However, every case is unique, and we use our experience with high-profile cases to develop a plan to counteract this media bias. Recently, our firm counseled Marcus Lewis, the Uber driver who was wrongly accused, and advised him to speak with the police with our support. He was exonerated in less than 24 hours, and no charges were ever filed from the police. Learn more about that case here: http://www.11alive.com/story/news/crime/2015/12/29/uber-driver-defends-reputation-after-social-media-allegations/78031302/

It Was the Other Guy

In Making a Murderer, Steven Avery’s attorneys were unable to accuse any specific person of committing the murder. Instead, they had to focus on the poor investigation conducted by the police in general. The Judge limited Steven’s defense due to Wisconsin law. There, a defendant cannot point their finger and allege that a third party committed the crime unless he can present evidence of the third party’s motif, opportunity, and a direct connection between the third person and the crime charged.

In Georgia, the standard is much lower than that in Wisconsin. The defense here only has to present evidence that “renders the desired inference that [the other guy] committed the crimes . . . more probable than would be that inference without the evidence.” Henderson v. State, 255 Ga. 687, 689 (Ga. 1986). All the defense needs is enough evidence “to raise a reasonable doubt of defendant’s guilt in the mind of a juror.” Essentially, the defense needs to present the jury with an alternative that makes a single juror question whether it is possible the defendant did not commit the crime, and that someone else did.

Even though Georgia has a lower standard than Wisconsin, it can still be tough to gather evidence that someone else committed the crime when the police have conducted a careless investigation. In these situations, it is imperative that we get involved as early as possible to ensure that we are able to do our own investigation and gather our own evidence before it is too late. If you have been charged with a crime, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a FREE CONSULTATION in our office so that we can begin working on your case immediately.

Miranda Rights

MIRANDA RIGHTS

By Andrew Powell Esq.

Almost everyone has seen a crime television show and heard the infamous phrase “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law, you have the right to an attorney, and if you cannot afford one an attorney would be appointed to you.” However, most people do not know when or why this phrase is so commonly used by police. In 1966, the United States Supreme Court decided to require law enforcement officials to read this list of rights to someone who has been taken into custody. These rights are known commonly as your “Miranda Rights.”

Purpose Of Reading The Miranda Rights

The United States Constitution and specifically the Fifth Amendment guarantees anyone who has been arrested the right not to incriminate themselves. Plainly put, an individual does not have to talk to police when they have been arrested. The Constitution and our form of justice requires that the government carry their burden and prove to a judge or jury that someone charged with a crime is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.georgia-juvenile-defense

Too often law enforcement officials become overzealous with their search for the truth and overstep the Constitutional bounds in their pursuit. It may not surprise you that police use coercive tactics or even lie to someone to get them to confess to a crime. Miranda warnings are a safeguard to protect against those who may cross that Constitutional boundary. The government must show the court that you were read your Miranda rights and that you waived your rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

When Does Miranda Apply To Me?

Confessions are the leading source of Miranda violations. When someone has been accused of a crime, big or small, they are often questioned in connection with that crime. Miranda rights must be read to someone after they are under arrest and before any law enforcement official asks any questions to the suspect.  Law enforcement officials have a tough job and they investigate crimes every day. Many officers are trying to make quick decisions based on little information. However, this does not allow them to just simply force people to talk to them and answer their questions.

Many times law enforcement officials will arrest someone and take them back to the police station for an interview. Generally, they will quickly go over your rights with you and ask you if you want to talk to them. If you have been charged with a crime this is where you want to stop and tell the law enforcement official that you would like to speak to your attorney.

When Does Miranda Not Apply To Me?

People sometimes think that any encounter with law enforcement requires them to read you your Miranda rights. This is untrue. Most encounters between people and law enforcement do not require the reading of your Miranda rights. As discussed above, the Miranda warnings are only required when you have been placed under arrest and the police are asking you questions regarding the crime.

Traffic stops are a common place to have an encounter with law enforcement where Miranda warnings are not required to be read to someone. In this circumstance, generally you are not under arrest and law enforcement is just going to ask you some general questions and write you a ticket.

In terms of a DUI, the police officer is not required to read the Miranda warnings. The officer may ask you to take a series of tests, known as Field Sobriety Tests or request you to blow into a machine that registers your blood alcohol content. Even though the officer does not have to read your Miranda rights to you, you have the ability to refuse these tests and refuse giving a breath sample.

Another common scenario is when law enforcement asks you to come to the station and make a statement. In this circumstance, Miranda warnings are not necessary because you have voluntarily come to the police station and are not under arrest. Remember, law enforcement is only required to give you the Miranda warnings once you have been arrested and before they initiate any questioning of you.

What Does A Miranda Violation Mean For Me?

Confessions or statements made to law enforcement will not be allowed at trial if law enforcement has not, first, read you the warnings required in Miranda. If you were forced into making a statement or the police did not read your rights to you and you then confess to a crime, whether it is a DUI or murder, that confession cannot be used against you at your trial. With your statement or confession tossed out it can help strengthen your case and possibly force the prosecutor’s office to drop the charges because they do not have enough evidence to prosecute you.

If you have been charged with crime and feel your rights were violated during the process, call our office and we can help you navigate the system. Our office has extensive experience in misdemeanors and felonies. Fighting charges with an attorney’s help is important because any conviction on your record will greatly reduce the possibility of having future charges lowered or dismissed. At the W. Scott Smith law firm we can identify where the police have violated your rights and ensure evidence will be kept out. Our firm can handle your misdemeanor or felony case with the expertise you need to save your record. Give us a call for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

DUI: Forced Blood Draws

DUI: Forced Blood Draws

By Mary Agramonte

The most shocking and disturbing development in DUI law is the practice of forced blood draws. Picture this: You have a glass or two of wine and are pulled over on your way home. The officer asks you a couple questions, but eventually requests you to step out of your car. He asks you to do a series of voluntary field sobriety tests, which are supposedly designed to accurately detect DUI. You do so in an effort to prove to the officer that you are clearly able to drive and are not impaired at all.

However, not everyone has the same balance and coordination skills. You might have been the kid in school who was picked last for team sports because you were notoriously uncoordinated. Or you might have a bad back or are recovering from a knee surgery. Or maybe you are one of the many people who feel extreme nervousness when an officer pulls you over. Regardless, the officer asks you to stand on one leg, and you accidentally have to tap the ground and hold your arms up to keep your balance. You “fail” the test, and are immediately arrested.

Mary Agramonte received her juris doctorate degree from Georgia State University.

Mary Agramonte received her juris doctorate degree from Georgia State University.

At this point, you might decide to refuse the breath test since your efforts to demonstrate that you are not intoxicated have already proven completely useless. You probably have heard that it is best practice to decline a breathalyzer test, which is true. However, the reality is when you refuse a breathalyzer, it is likely your driver’s license will be suspended for a year under Georgia’s Implied Consent law at O.C.G.A. § 40-5-67.1(d). The law states that yes, you have a right to refuse a chemical test, but if you do, you may face a one year loss of all driving privileges. And now, a more disturbing reality may come after your refusal of a breath test. In 2006, the Georgia legislature added another section to the Implied Consent law, effectively stating that even after exercising your right to refuse a chemical test, that the evidence can still be obtained by a search warrant, against your will.

The Reality of Forced Blood Draws

As inconceivable as it may sound, Georgia law actually allows the police officer to take you to the jail to strap you to a table, place you in a head lock, and force a needle in your arm to get evidence of your blood alcohol level. Forced blood draws occur without your consent and completely against your will. The procedure that includes the gurney, straps, and headlock is the same in every case, even if you are compliant and are no longer refusing the test. Forced blood draws allow the State of Georgia to have a higher DUI conviction rate since the blood evidence will significantly strengthen their case.

CHECK OUT THE FOX 5 ATLANTA STORY ON BLOOD DRAWS: Fox 5 Atlanta Blood Draw Story

What about my Constitutional rights?

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to be secure from unreasonable searches, and that search warrants must be supported by probable cause.

Unfortunately, current Georgia law allows police officers to make a quick roadside phone call to a judge to obtain a search warrant to obtain a blood sample from that individual. All they need is probable cause that you are driving under the influence. Evidence might come from your performance on the voluntary field sobriety tests, your appearance (blood shot eyes, disheveled clothing), and your behavior (smell of alcohol, slurred speech, admissions). These factors tend to be very subjective and it is all in the hands of the arresting officer to determine what he saw.

The law and reality is troubling. With this knowledge, I hope that Georgia residents can prepare themselves for the possibility that the officer won’t take “no” for an answer when it comes to getting a hold of your blood in order to prove in court that you are guilty of the misdemeanor crime of driving under the influence. If you are pulled over, you can politely decline all field sobriety and chemical tests, but be informed about the possibilities of losing your driver’s privilege and even being held down to have a needle forced in your arm.

Do I need a Lawyer?

Yes. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and then forced to submit to a blood test under a search warrant, please call our office to speak with an experienced DUI attorney. We know the ways to attack every facet of a DUI case, even a forced blood draw. Call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION at 404-581-0999 and maximize your chances of excluding the blood results in your day in court.

 

Move Over Law

 

MOVE OVER LAW

By Mary Agramonte J.D.

Georgia’s “move over” law is designed to keep officers, emergency workers, and first responders safe when they are stopped on the side of the road with their emergency lights flashing. The law was passed in 2003 to reduce the number of police officer and HERO fatalities that were occurring due to traffic crash responses. The “move over” law saves lives and makes sense, but unfortunately, too many Georgia motorists are unaware that it exists until they are slapped with a $500 fine.

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-16, Georgia law requires drivers to move over to the next lane if safely possible when passing a stationary emergency vehicle, towing vehicle, or recovery vehicle when their lights are flashing. If moving over is absolutely impossible, the law requires you to slow down to below the speed limit and be prepared to stop your car if necessary. Violations can result in a fine of $500 for the first offense. Once you factor in the court costs, however, this can put you well above $500, even if this was your first offense, and even if you had never heard of the law. Paying the fine on your citation means you are admitting you are guilty to the offense which raises a number of consequences.

MaryPic2

Mary Agramonte has her Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University.

A violation of this statute could cost you much more than the fine itself. A conviction for this traffic offense will also add 3 points to your driving record, and it will stay on your record forever. A driver who is over the age of 21 is allotted 15 points in a 24 month period before the Department of Driver Services will suspend a driver’s license. Points on your record also subject you to higher car insurance rates because your insurer believes you are more likely to file a claim than someone with lower points on their record. Getting just one traffic ticket can boost an average person’s auto insurance premiums by as much as 22 percent.

Additionally, violating Georgia’s move over law can be a basis for an officer to stop your vehicle which can lead to even more serious charges. Under both the Georgia and the United States Constitutions, an officer needs “reasonable articuable suspicion” to justify pulling your vehicle over for an investigative stop. Violating this statute gives the officers that power to stop you and investigate you, which ultimately can lead to a DUI arrest or the investigation of other potential and more serious crimes.

To avoid these repercussions of violating Georgia’s move over law, always drive attentively and don’t risk being pulled over or injuring the emergency workers on the side of road. If you see lights ahead, do all that you can to safely move over. If moving over safely is impossible, remember to slow down below the speed limit when passing emergency lights, and be prepared to stop. It can save lives, and it can save you money and the hassle.

If you have been charged with a violation of Georgia’s move over law, call our office and we can help you navigate the system. Our office has extensive experience in traffic violations and DUI defense. Fighting traffic tickets with an attorney’s help is important because any conviction on your record will greatly reduce the possibility of having future citations lowered or dismissed. Our firm can handle your traffic ticket case with the experience you need to save your record. Give us a call for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.

Bench Warrant

Bench Warrant

Being arrested and having to show up for court can be stressful enough.  What’s even more stressful is missing a court date and knowing that there is a bench warrant out for your arrest.  Clearing a bench warrant is different in every jurisdiction, but there are a few common aspects of the law that can help in clearing a bench warrant.

First, it’s important to understand how a bench warrant is issued.  When a Georgia citizen is arrested and released from custody they are either given a court date at the jail or the person is told that a court date will be sent to them by mail.

Some cases, especially felony cases, are not immediately docketed with the court and it can take time before the courts add your case to the calendar.  In some jurisdictions that can mean months and even years before a court date is set up for your case.   Unfortunately, those court dates don’t always make it into your hand and if you missed your court date, then the Judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest.   A bench warrant is warrant issued directly by the Judge for missing court.  A bench warrant instructs all law enforcement authorities to immediately arrest the person listed on the bench warrant and return them to court.Marietta-Office-Courtroom

So what do you do if you if you have a bench warrant?  Well, if you’re aware of a warrant it’s important to realize that it is unlikely that the warrant is going to go away on its own.  In fact, the warrant will remain until the Judge addresses the issue of why you missed court.   Because of that, it’s important to contact a lawyer immediately to address possible options.  Some jurisdictions will allow the attorney to discuss the case with the prosecutor and potentially resolve the warrant without you having to go back to jail.  In other jurisdictions, it will be on you to turn yourself in and allow your lawyer to work diligently on getting you in front of the Judge as soon as possible.

In some circumstances it can be shown that you did not in fact receive notice.  If the evidence shows that to be the case then the Judge would have the ability to lift the bench warrant and give you a new court date.  Or you may have been in custody in another jurisdiction and you were not able to make court because you were not transported to the courthouse. In those situations a lawyer can obtain a proof of incarceration and ask the Judge to lift the bench warrant immediately.   In any event, a lawyer can assist in helping lift a bench warrant and get you back to your loved ones as soon as possible.

Every courthouse is different.  It’s important to have a lawyer who knows how to effectively represent individuals with bench warrants.  At W. Scott Smith P.C., our lawyers have handled cases all over the State of Georgia and know the quickest ways to lift a bench warrant.  If you have an active bench warrant and need assistance, please call 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.

Overcharged

The Prosecution Overcharged My Case!

            I have seen the prosecution overcharge cases on multiple occasions.  The prosecutor’s office will, at times, define your alleged conduct as something much worse than it is.  A misdemeanor will be elevated to a felony, for example, or a felony will be charged as one carrying much more punishment than it should.  That doesn’t sound like truth and justice, does it?

There can be several reasons for a case to be overcharged.  Until defense lawyers get involved, the prosecutors (who are human beings) hear only one side of the story.  The police or the complaining witnesses unload with their side and the prosecutor doesn’t hear a word to the contrary.  And, unfortunately, defense lawyers may not be involved until the case has already been accused or indicted.  (There are exceptions…especially when the lawyer is hired early in the process and there is some form of evidence to support an opposing position).  So, acting only on the word or evidence given by the complainant, the prosecutor files the accusation or indicts the case.  It is extremely important for the lawyer to be thorough when talking to the client and finding out, in detail, what the facts of the case are.

Another reason that cases might be overcharged is that the prosecution is already thinking ahead to plea bargaining.  One prosecutor explicitly told me that he added the biggest charge in the indictment in hopes that he would work a plea to the lesser charges without too much hassle.

Sad?  I think so.  I am convinced that the anxiety people experience leading up to the disposition of the case is twice as bad as whatever punishment may be inflicted.  So many of my clients have suffered long, sleepless nights, loss of their jobs, broken relationships, substance abuse, and many other side effects of being charged with a crime (please note that I did not say convicted of a crime).  That is yet another reason to go early in the process to talk with a lawyer who believes in the presumption of innocence and who treats each client like a unique, special human being.  We take on the burden of your case for you.  We provide you with honest feedback that can give you peace about the situation and, hopefully, enable you to think about everything else going on in your life.  I like to think that my clients are able to dump the burden of the pending case on me and put their time and energy towards their kids, their jobs, their significant other, their hobbies, and everything else going on in their lives.

In my next blog, I will discuss some ways to combat overcharging by the State.

Always feel free to call us with any questions about your case.  You will get to speak with an attorney free of charge.  (404) 581-0999.

NEW YEARS EVE DUI CHECKPOINT

NEW YEARS EVE DUI CHECKPOINT:

Every year, thousands of Georgians celebrate the dawning of a New Year by enjoying the several New Year’s parties around town.  As we all know, those parties often include music, food, and alcohol.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, New Year’s Day is the second most deadly day for drivers with an average of 140 deaths related to alcohol.  Because of this, law enforcement agencies throughout the State set up DUI checkpoints to prevent drunk drivers from getting into accidents.   We certainly advise that you find a safe ride home on New Year’s Day.  But if you find yourself at a DUI checkpoint, it’s important to know your rights before the Officer mistakes you for a dangerous driver.

STAGE 1:

DUI checkpoints are often set up in two stages.   The first stage is an initial screening stage.   Here, a DUI trained officer will check for some of the common physical manifestations of a person who is driving under the influence.  Often, we see police reports that include the initial screening officer smelling the odor of alcohol coupled with bloodshot and watery eyes.  The DUI officer is also looking for the driver’s behavior.  Particularly, the DUI Officer is looking to see if the person is being belligerent or combative.

It’s important to remember to always be polite in these situations.  If the DUI Officer becomes agitated with the way you respond to his questions, then you’ll likely find yourself at the DUI checkpoint much longer than you would expect.   The Officer will likely ask you how much you’ve had to drink.  If you’ve only had one beer then it’s ok to let the Officer know that.   In Georgia, it is not illegal to consume alcohol and drive.  However, it is illegal to consume alcohol the extent you become a less safe driver.  So, the fact that you have had one beer does not automatically mean you’ve broken the law.

STAGE 2:

The DUI Officers are trained to instruct drivers to the second stage of the checkpoint if they feel there is enough evidence to continue a DUI investigation.  The second stage will often include a second DUI Officer who will almost certainly request the driver to perform field sobriety testing.  As we’ve discussed in the past, field sobriety testing is weighed heavily against the driver.  For example, the walk and turn evaluation is one of the three standardized field sobriety tests.  The evaluation includes a series of clues the Officer is trained to look for.  There are seventy-six opportunities for the driver to display a clue.  If the driver shows two of the seventy-six clues then that is enough for the Officer to establish someone are impaired.   More concerning is the initial studies on this examination showed only a 65% accuracy rate in optimal conditions.

Because of the unreliability of field sobriety testing, we always suggest to our client to refuse any field sobriety testing.  The chances of the Officer making a mistake are extremely high and the consequences to the driver can be drastic.   Finally, if the DUI Officer feels there is enough evidence obtained from all of the interactions then he or she will make an arrest.

As I mentioned earlier, the easiest way to avoid a DUI is call a cab or have a sober driver.  Personally, I’ve found the car service Uber to be fantastic.  But, sometimes we find ourselves in difficult circumstances.

If you or a friend ends up getting charged with DUI on New Year’s Day please contact the office immediately at 404-581-0999.   Our lawyers will be on call and available to for a free consultation.