If you have been arrested for a DUI, you may be extremely worried about the impact it will have on your life. It is important to remember that an arrest does not equal a conviction, even if your BAC was over the legal limit. An experienced and knowledgeable Atlanta DUI defense attorney will look at all aspects of your case and determine if there are any defenses that may be applicable or if there are any challenges that can be raised. What challenges or defenses are appropriate in a given situation will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. This page will give an overview of various DUI Defenses that can be used.
There are a number of things that an Atlanta DUI defense attorney may choose to challenge in a DUI case. These things can include:
- The Traffic Stop: In order for a law enforcement officer to pull you over, that officer must have a reason for doing so. If the officer had no reason to stop you because you were not violating any rules of the road, this may be used as a defense to a DUI charge. In DUI cases, some of the common reasons that people are pulled over is failure to maintain a lane or making an improper lane change. However, there may be a myriad of reasons that you committed a traffic infraction that have nothing to do with being impaired. For example, you may have swerved because you were checking your phone, or failed to signal because there wasn't another car coming that you needed to notify of your lane change.
- The Roadblock: Police departments have to follow certain protocols in order to conduct a roadblock. These are constitutional requirements and, if they are not followed, this can constitute a defense as the entire stop may have been illegal.
- Avoidance Of The Roadblock: If you make a turn on to a side street or make a U-turn right before a roadblock, a police officer may suspect that you are attempting to avoid the checkpoint and pull you over. However, in order to stop you, the officer needs to have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that you are avoiding the stop and not making a legitimate turn. You may have needed to turn around because you forgot something or turned onto a side street because that was the direction that you needed to go. If you didn't commit any traffic infractions while making the turn, then there may be no reason for a law enforcement officer to pull you over.
- The Field Sobriety Test: Often, in order to determine if you are driving while intoxicated, a police officer will have you perform a number of field sobriety tests. Some of the more common tests that you may be asked to do include: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test. An officer may determine you are impaired based on how successful you are at completing these tests. It is important to note, however, that people can do badly on these tests for a variety of reasons. For example, some people have a nystagmus that occurs naturally or is caused by a medication, so looking for a nystagmus in those individuals would not be a good indicator of intoxication. Weight and age can also affect how a person performs on a field sobriety test, as can environmental conditions like bad weather, lighting, or having to perform the tests on a hill.
- The Portable Breath Test: Like field sobriety tests, the portable breath test is used to help an officer determine intoxication. The numerical results of these tests are not admissible as evidence in court, however, officers can testify as to whether the device detected alcohol. In addition, only approved devices can be used to test those suspected of DUI.
- The Implied Consent Notice: Georgia has an implied consent statute which requires an individual who is arrested for DUI to submit to a chemical test so as to determine his or her blood alcohol level. Your consent is considered 'implied' because you drive on the roads of the state. Law enforcement officers are required to read the state's implied consent notice before asking you to submit to a chemical test. If mistakes are made such as the officer does not follow the proper protocol, does not read the notice, or the notice is not the current or correct version, you may be able to get the the results of the chemical test suppressed.
- The Chemical Test Itself: A number of factors can affect the results of a chemical test. For example, equipment that is not functioning properly, equipment that has not been maintained correctly, giving the test outside of a certain time period, and other things such as residual mouth alcohol, medical conditions, or even substances that were recently ingested, can all affect the results of a chemical test. If a test is inaccurate, then the test cannot be used as evidence at trial.
- Lack Of A Warrant On A Blood Test: The recent United State Supreme Court decision in the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota may have an impact on your case, depending on the circumstances. In that case the court determined that a driver can give implied consent to a warrantless blood test, as the court considered this kind of test invasive. In order for an officer to get a blood sample, he or she would generally need to get a warrant first. However, the court did find that requesting a defendant to take a breath test without first obtaining a warrant was permissible, as the court considered this type of test to fall into the search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.
- Refusing A Chemical Test: If an officer determined that you refused to take a test, you can challenge this determination if you did not actually intended to refuse. For example, if you were silently debating what to do, this may have been misconstrued as refusing to submit to the test, even though you made no affirmative statement that you were not going to cooperate.
These are just some examples of the kinds of defenses that a knowledgeable Atlanta defense attorney can raise in your defense. Again, what defenses are applicable to your case will depend on what happened. If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Atlanta, please do not hesitate to contact Atlanta DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today. You can give us a call at (404) 816-4440 or contact us online.