What happens when you get pulled over for a suspected DUI in Georgia?


The Stop

A police officer needs reasonable suspicion to legally pull you over while driving. Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause, and it requires that the officer has specific, articulable facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime or traffic violation has been, is being, or is about to be committed. This can include traffic violations, such as speeding, running a red light, or having a broken taillight, or behavior that may indicate impairment, such as swerving, driving too slowly, or erratic braking.

It is important to note that the officer’s suspicion must be based on objective facts, not merely a hunch or intuition. Once a vehicle is pulled over, the officer may further investigate the situation, and if they develop probable cause for a DUI, they may request the driver perform field sobriety tests.

The Interaction

In Georgia, when stopped by a police officer, a person is required to show their identification, such as a driver’s license, as part of the initial interaction. However, it is important to note that individuals have the right to remain silent and should exercise this right when interacting with the officer. By staying silent, you can avoid providing any information that may potentially be used against you in a legal proceeding. While you must comply with providing identification, you are not obligated to answer any further questions or engage in conversation with the officer. It is important to be respectful during the stop and do not argue with the officer as the police can lie during these stops. They may say offensive, provocative, or inflammatory things to get a response from the suspects. No matter what, do not argue, run from, interfere, or resist in any way. 

Field Sobriety Test

Field sobriety tests are a series of physical and cognitive exercises administered by a police officer during a traffic stop to assess whether a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. These tests are designed to evaluate the driver’s balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions, which can be affected by intoxication. Common field sobriety tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test.

Field sobriety tests have been criticized for their lack of scientific backing and for being designed in a way that makes them difficult to pass, even for sober individuals. Critics argue that these tests can be influenced by factors unrelated to alcohol or drug impairment, such as fatigue, medical conditions, or nervousness during a police encounter.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has standardized some field sobriety tests (like the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test) and conducted studies to establish their validity, many experts still question the reliability and accuracy of these tests in determining impairment.

It is important to be aware of the potential issues with field sobriety tests and to understand that drivers have the right to refuse them in most jurisdictions, including Georgia. However, refusing to take these tests may lead to consequences, such as an increased suspicion of impairment or an arrest.

Breathalyzer

A breathalyzer is a device used by law enforcement to measure a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) by analyzing their breath. When a person consumes alcohol, it is absorbed into their bloodstream and eventually exhaled through their lungs. The breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in the exhaled breath, which is then used to estimate the individual’s BAC.

In Georgia, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) depends on the driver’s age and license type. Here are the legal BAC limits for different categories of drivers:

  1. For drivers aged 21 and older: The legal BAC limit is 0.08%. If a driver’s BAC is at or above this level, they can be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). 
  2. For drivers under the age of 21: Georgia has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving, so the legal BAC limit is 0.02%. This means that even a small amount of alcohol in an underage driver’s system can lead to a DUI charge.
  3. For commercial drivers: The legal BAC limit for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is 0.04%. Commercial drivers can face DUI charges if their BAC is at or above this limit, regardless of whether they were driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense.

It’s important to remember that even if a driver’s BAC is below the legal limit, they can still be charged with a DUI if the officer has reason to believe that the driver is impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

In most jurisdictions, including Georgia, drivers have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test. However, it is important to understand the potential consequences of refusing a breathalyzer. Refusing to take the test may strengthen the officer’s suspicion of impairment and could lead to an arrest.

Implied Consent

Implied consent in Georgia refers to the legal concept that by obtaining a driver’s license, a driver has implicitly agreed to submit to chemical tests (such as breath, blood, or urine tests) if they are arrested for a DUI. This means that drivers are required to comply with chemical testing if they are lawfully arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

When a driver is arrested for a DUI in Georgia, the officer must read the implied consent notice to the driver, informing them of their obligation to submit to chemical testing and the potential consequences of refusing the test. The notice also explains the driver’s right to an independent chemical test at their own expense.

While a driver may still refuse to submit to chemical testing after being arrested and having the implied consent notice read to them, the officer may obtain a search warrant to draw the driver’s blood for testing. This warrant must be issued by a judge based on probable cause, and the blood draw must be conducted in a medically approved manner.

Why you should hire an attorney after a DUI arrest

Hiring an attorney after a DUI arrest in Georgia is crucial because they can help navigate complex laws, develop effective defense strategies, represent you in court, address license suspension issues, advocate for lenient or alternative sentencing, and protect your rights. An experienced DUI attorney increases your chances of a favorable outcome and minimizes the long-lasting consequences on your personal and professional life.