When a person is charged with a DUI in Georgia, he or she is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The Georgia prosecutor is required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by using evidence that proves his or her case. When a prosecutor is unable to present evidence that meets the burden of proof, you are not guilty of a DUI.
Understanding DUI evidence and challenging it in court is an important part of defending yourself against DUI charges. With the help of an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney at your side, you can defend your case and challenge the prosecutor's evidence against you.
Because most criminal cases never make it to trial, many people are not familiar with what witness testimony entails. A witness is a person who observed an event take place. These observations include what the witness may have:
- heard at the scene of the alleged DUI
- smelled in the vehicle, or on the person of another
- saw while observing the defendant
- felt during the encounter
When a witness is called to testify about a Georgia DUI, there are two different approaches to questioning an attorney can take. The person who calls the witness asks questions on "direct examination." On direct, an attorney asks open-ended questions such as:
- "What did you see when you got there?"
- "How did you determine if the driver may be intoxicated while behind the wheel?"
- "What field sobriety tests did you use to make your determination?"
Cross-examination occurs when a lawyer gets to ask questions after direct examination. The questions now usually suggest an answer, such as:
- "You assumed my client had been drinking, isn't that right?"
- "You didn't follow the correct guidelines when using the breathalyzer, did you?"
On cross-examination, your defense attorney can attack the experiences, observations, and skills of both lay and expert witnesses.
Police testimony is usually an essential part of the prosecutor's DUI case against you. The government will typically call the officer or officers who actually arrested you. They will also typically include witnesses that were a part of your arrest process, such as those that performed any blood, urine, or breath tests.
Having an experienced attorney at your side when dealing with police testimony is critical. Your attorney will understand that the trial begins with the selection of the jury, to make sure jurors will not automatically assume everything the officer says is correct or true.
Field Sobriety Tests
Police testimony frequently concerns a person's performance on field sobriety tests. These "tests" are highly subjective and depend greatly on the officer's interpretations, which can be inaccurate and biased. Challenging these tests and the officer's observations can help to present doubt to the jury about whether you were truly intoxicated.
Jurors need to understand how inaccurate these tests actually are. Unless this is proven to them, most will likely assume that the police officer's observations are based on a scientifically sound test, when they are certainly not.
When a law enforcement officer takes the stand to testify at trial, he or she usually has the police report on the stand. Typically, officers review their police reports from the day of the arrest before coming into trial. This is because they are unlikely to remember what happened on the day you were arrested.
Officers also tend to rely on standard "template" police reports to remember what happened on the day in question. Usually, months have passed between the arrest and the trial, and officers cannot remember on their own what happened that day. Officers use standard phrases in their reports, such as:
- Bloodshot, watery eyes
- Slurred speech
- An odor of alcohol
Cross-examination can point out these "template" reports to the jury to show that the officer is not testifying with actual knowledge of what occurred with your particular case. You should not be convicted when an officer cannot even remember the information about which he or she is testifying.
With the help of your Georgia DUI defense attorney, you can show to the jury that the officer is unable to remember what actually happened in your case. This could result in a not guilty verdict in your favor.
Social Media and DUI
Georgia law enforcement now routinely uses evidence obtained from social media to charge and prove a DUI. In a great many cases, DUI suspects post on their social media accounts about their activities on the same night as the arrest, and this evidence can be used at trial.
Social media is a major part of most people's modern lives. Websites like the following are often used by police officers in their DUI investigation:
Prosecutors can often prove drunk driving by an individual through the use of social media by looking at the social media accounts of DUI suspects to look at:
- status updates,
- posted pictures or videos,
- comments on another person's post, or
Many times, social media sites will "check-in" where a person was all night. When those places include a variety of bars, this can be used as evidence that you were driving while intoxicated. Some people have even posted pictures of themselves drinking while driving, or with an open container in the vehicle.
Social Media: Effect on Probation Violation Hearings
When a person is on probation, especially for a past DUI, one of the orders a judge typically imposes is that the person does not consume alcohol or other intoxicating substances. Many times, social media evidence of drinking or drug use is used to prove the court that a probation violation has occurred.
Consult a Roswell-Alpharetta DUI Attorney
If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI, understanding the evidence that may be used at trial can help you understand what you face, and how to defend your case.