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 the nature, methods of proof, penalties, and challenges to a speeding offense in Georgia.
Speeding is one of the most common traffic offenses associated with DUI arrests in Georgia. This is likely because officers are equipped with speed detection devices and it is the type of offense that catches an officer’s eye.
In order to fully understand speeding laws in Georgia, you would have to refer to various parts of five different statutes: O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-180, 40-6-181, 40-6-182, 40-6-183 and 40-6-188. The provisions of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180 also cover the catch-all offense known as “driving too fast for conditions.”
Georgia has “absolute” speed limits, meaning a violation occurs even at one mile per hour over the posted speed limit. Unless otherwise posted, the absolute speed limits are as follows:
- 20 miles per hour in school zones
- 30 miles per hour in urban and residential districts
- 35 miles per hour on unpaved country roads
- 65 miles per hour on sections of physically divided highways without full access control on the state highway system
- 70 miles per hour on interstate highways, and
- 55 miles per hour on other roadways.
Absolute limits aside, Georgia’s basic speeding law prohibit driving at a speed greater than is “reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing.” Therefore, a driver must always drive at a safe and reasonable speed. What is safe and reasonable depends on the circumstances. 40 miles per hour on a clear day with no traffic is more safe and reasonable than 40 miles per hour in a snow storm with heavy traffic.
Under Georgia law, technically, speeding offenses are misdemeanors and are therefore punishable with up to a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in jail. Although these are the maximum punishments, speeding cases generally do not result in jail time.
For a first time speeding offense, the maximum fines are as follows:
- $0 for speeding by 5 miles per hour or less over the limit
- $25 for speeding by more than 5 but less than 10 miles per hour over the limit
- $100 for speeding by more than 10 but less than 14 miles per hour over the limit
- $125 for speeding by more than 14 but less than 19 miles per hour over the limit
- $150 for speeding by at least 19 but less than 24 miles per hour over the limit
- $500 for speeding by at least 24 but less than 34 miles per hour over the limit
Speeding in “work zones” can be punished by fines ranging from $100 to $2,000 and/or jail up to twelve months as this is a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor. Also, anyone convicted of speeding at 85 miles per hour, or 75 miles per hour on a two lane highway, will be deemed a “super speeder,” causing an additional $200 fine to be added to the sentence. These fine amounts are base fines and do not include statutory surcharges which significantly increase the total fine amount. A sentencing judge can always add on defensive driving courses as a condition of your sentence. In addition to fines and course, a motorist can also expect points to be assessed on their license by DDS (2-6 points depending on the offense).
Challenging the Stop
A speeding charge may be challenged through a motion to suppress or a motion in limine which are designed to attack the stop, arrest, or any evidence gathered as a result of an unlawful stop and/or arrest.
The State has the burden of proving each and every law regarding speed detection devices.
First, the arresting officer will attempt to establish they visually estimated your speed. Visual estimation of speed is sufficient to convict in Georgia.
In order to establish a “visual estimation,” the officer must testify that: he/she is trained in the visual estimation of speed for vehicles, how long he/she has been trained, how he/she was trained, how many visual estimations he/she has made in their career, and that he/she is accurate to within +- 5 mph of their estimation.
The State must also prove:
- The department issuing you the citation has a permit issued by the Department of Public Safety to operate speed detection devices. The prosecutor may either admit this document into evidence or just have the officer testify that such a permit exists. O.C.G.A. 40-14-2.
- The prosecutor must prove that the location where you were speeding is on the Department of Public Safety’s list of approved locations for the use of speed detection devices. Many prosecutors think the officer’s testimony alone is enough to satisfy this requirement, but the prosecutor must admit this list into evidence. O.C.G.A. 40-14-3.
- The prosecutor must prove that the agency issuing the citation has a permit from the Federal Communications Commission to operate the device, and that device was inspected by a technician before it was placed into service and that the device is serviced by the technician annually. This provision only applies to citations based on radar evidence. This provision does not apply to speeding tickets issued based on Lidar/laser, VASCAR, pacing, or other forms of speed detection. O.C.G.A. 40-14-4.
- The prosecutor must prove that the officer tested his speed detection device for accuracy at the beginning and end of his shift and that he recorded the results in a logbook. This may be proven through oral testimony, or the prosecutor may admit the logbook into evidence. O.C.G.A. 40-14-5.
- The prosecutor must prove that there are signs at least 24 by 30 inches when you enter the county, city, etc. warning that there are speed detection devices in use. O.C.G.A. 40-14-6.
- The prosecutor must prove that the officer was not using the speed detection device within 500 feet of these signs. O.C.G.A. 40-14-6.
- The prosecutor must prove that the officer was not using the speed detection device within 500 feet of a change in speed limit sign. O.C.G.A. 40-14-6.
- The prosecutor must prove that the officer operating a stationary speed detection device was visible for at least 500 feet to traffic. O.C.G.A. 40-14-7.
- The prosecutor must prove that your speed was more than 10 mph over the posted speed limit unless you are in a school zone, historic district, or residential zones all of which must be properly marked. An area with a speed limit of 35 mph is not automatically a residential zone. The area must be properly marked as a school, historic, or residential zone. O.C.G.A. 40-14-8.
- The prosecutor must prove you were not within 300 feet of a change in speed limit sign (if inside a municipality) or within 600 feet of a change in speed limit sign (if outside a municipality). O.C.G.A. 40-14-9.
- The prosecutor must prove that there was not a change in the speed limit in the 30 days prior to your being issued the ticket at the location where you were given the ticket. O.C.G.A. 40-14-9.
- The prosecutor must prove the location where you received the ticket is no on a grade in excess of 7 percent. Just because a location is listed on the Department of Public Safety’s list of approved locations for the use of speed detection devices this does not mean the location has been measured for the grade. This is an excellent source for cross-examination. O.C.G.A. 40-14-9.
- The prosecutor must prove the officer issuing you the ticket has a permit to operate speed detection devices. This may be proven by admitting the permit or having the officer testify that he is certified. O.C.G.A. 40-14-10.
In addition to these technical requirements, an experienced attorney can also raise challenges to errors committed by the operator of a speed detection device. Examples include, but are not limited to: lack of training, misidentifying your vehicle as the speeding vehicle, improper movement or aiming of the speed detection device, the officer’s visibility and/or reaction time, interference with the device (weather conditions, radio interference, air conditioning, reflective surfaces).
As we can see, there are many intricate requirements the prosecution must properly satisfy in order to prove speeding. Because of these various requirements, it is highly recommended you contact an experienced attorney who can raise these challenges in a pre-trial motion or at trial.
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.