1) What do police officers look for when trying to find drunk drivers on the roadway?
The following list of clues indicate what police look for when trying to establish whether the driver being observed is impaired. The higher the clue is on the list, the higher the probability of impairment. The list is based on research by the National Highway Traffic Administration:
Turning with a wide radius
Straddling center of lane marker
"Appearing to be drunk"
Almost striking object or vehicle
Driving on other than designated highway
Speed more than 10 mph below limit
Stopping without reason in traffic lane
Following too closely
Tires on center or lane marker
Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
Signaling inconsistent with driving actions
Slow response to traffic signals
Turning abruptly or illegally
Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
Driving with headlights off
Surprisingly, speeding is not a clue of insobriety. This is because studies show that a person who speeds often exhibits signs of heightened awareness in the form of quicker judgment and reflexes.
2) If I’m stopped by the police, should I answer any questions regarding drinking?
Citizens are not required to answer questions that are designed to be incriminating. In a police encounter, a simple request to speak to your attorney before answering questions, would be an appropriate response. However, informing the officer that you had one or two beers should not be harmful since it usually would not cause a person to be impaired. This response may explain away the odor of alcohol on a driver’s breath.
3) What signs of insobriety do police look for after stopping a citizen on the roadside?
The most common symptoms of impairment taught at police training classes are:
Red, watery, glassy or bloodshot eyes
Odor of alcohol on breath
Fumbling with wallet while trying to get license
Failure to comprehend officer’s questions
Unsteady of feet while exiting vehicle
Swaying while standing
Leaning on car for support
Being combative, argumentative or jovial while talking with officer
Lack of awareness in regards to time and place
Unable to follow police instructions.
4) Do citizens have a right to an attorney when they are stopped for a DUI investigation?
The law in Georgia provides that persons stopped for DUI initially do not have the right to an attorney. In fact, you don’t have a right to speak to a lawyer until after the initial investigation on the street is complete and you have been taken to jail. Most citizens do not understand that after their arrest, they are not entitled to speak to a lawyer when confronted with the decision of taking or refusing a blood, breath or urine test. Keep in mind, however, that it may still be a good idea to request a lawyer when you are first stopped by the police. This is because some police officers will let you call a lawyer prior to having the right to do so.
5) What should I do if the police ask me to take field sobriety tests?
Understand that the police want you to help them make their case against you stronger. By performing field tests, you are simply helping the police manufacture evidence against you. Be aware that they fully intend on using this evidence against you in court . Therefore, taking an eye test, balancing test, or any other evaluation on the street is usually not a good idea. Most experts agree that police officers are not well trained enough to accurately interpret the symptoms observed while administering these street evaluations. This doesn’t mean that you need to be rude or nasty to an officer if he asks you to do a field sobriety test. Instead, its a good idea to " respectfully decline" all tests on the roadside.
6) Should I take a blood, breath or urine test down at the station? What will happen if I refuse?
Many lawyers agree that the above tests are not completely accurate and therefore should not be taken. However, if you agree to take one of these chemical tests for the police, remember that you are then entitled to your own independent tests. This means that the police are required to transport you to a medical facility of your own choosing for the purpose of obtaining an independent test. Keep in mind, however, if you refuse a chemical test after being arrested, you risk losing your drivers license for one year. If you do refuse to take the test that the police offer, you only have 10 days to request a special hearing to fight the one year suspension. Therefore, calling a DUI lawyer immediately after your arrest is important !
7) What are the consequences if I cooperate and enter a plea of guilty in court?
The new DUI laws in Georgia require jail time for a first DUI offense. This jail time is mandatory, and therefore, the judge has no choice but to include it in your sentence if you plead guilty. This strict law is causing many Georgia citizens to take an aggressive stance in court. Another down side to cooperating and pleading guilty, is that your license will be suspended for one year. Other consequences include, high insurance rates, a criminal record, and compromising future job prospects. Because of the new harsh law in Georgia, it is very important to speak to an experienced DUI lawyer before you decide what to do in court.
8) Will my case get dismissed if the officer doesn’t give me a Miranda warning?
Georgia law does not require the police to give a Miranda warning to a DUI suspect during the officer’s initial investigation of the crime. Miranda warnings are only required if the officer interrogates a suspect after the arrest. Put simply, any incriminating statements that you make to police in response to questioning after you’re placed in custody and without the benefit of a Miranda warning, are not admissible in court. As a general rule, it is not a good idea to say anything incriminating to the police before, during or after your arrest.
9) What is the 10 day rule?
If you refuse to take a blood, breath or urine test, then you are facing a one year suspension of your drivers license in Georgia. In order to avoid this nasty one year suspension, you must request a special hearing in writing to the Georgia Department of Public Safety. If you fail to request the hearing within 10 business days of your arrest, your license will automatically be suspended. You should take note that if you do take a blood, breath or urine test and you score a .10 or higher , you must also request a hearing within 10 days of your arrest. Failure to do so will result in a suspended license.
10) Is it possible to win a DUI case in court?
There are about 40,000 DUI arrests in Georgia annually. Of course not all of these arrests are legitimate. The police are often overzealous and this sometimes results in a bad arrest. Since there are many legitimate defenses to this crime, a qualified DUI defense lawyer can often help you get your charges dismissed. If you feel that you were falsely accused by the police or just not treated fairly, then you should call my office immediately.