When officers pull you over for a suspected DUI, they immediately begin to investigate and attempt to determine if you are intoxicated while behind the wheel. From the initial observations of your driving to the final chemical tests performed at the station, officers are always on the lookout for signs of intoxication.
Understanding the steps officers take to investigate a suspected drunk driving case is important in developing your strong DUI defense. These investigations are often faulty and can lead to false positive indicators of intoxication, even when you may have been perfectly safe to drive. With the help of an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney at your side, you can defend your case and challenge the officers' investigation techniques.
Field Sobriety Tests in Atlanta
Field sobriety tests are designed to look for indicators of intoxication, without actually testing your breath or your blood. These tests are "standardized" and officers are trained on how to run them, and interpret the signs they might see. However, this is a major problem for many DUI suspects, because they may not perform well on the tests even when completely sober.
The three tests include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: Following an object with your eyes while an officer watches for certain signs of intoxication.
- Walk and Turn Test: The suspect walks in a straight line, heel-to-toe, for nine steps, and then repeats the process back.
- One Leg Stand Test: The suspect stands on one leg and lifts the other six inches in the air.
How the performance of these tests is "scored" is incredibly subjective, and the results are very often misinterpreted.
Blood & Breath Tests
Blood and breath tests operate under Georgia's "implied consent" laws. A driver on Georgia roads gives "implied consent" to be tested for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of drugs and alcohol. This testing can occur either through a breath test, or a blood test.
A breath test is the most common way to test for alcohol intoxication. The roadside breathalyzer and the official breathalyzer back at the jail or police station are both based on outdated technology and can be incredibly inaccurate. The legal limit in Georgia is 0.08% BAC for most drivers, but a breath test can be off by as much as 0.02%, even when properly calibrated. This means that a test may show you at or above the legal limit when you are in fact below it.
Blood tests face the same accuracy issues, and their results can be challenged in court.
Urine tests are used more often when officers suspect that a driver is under the influence of drugs, rather than alcohol. A DUI drug charge cannot be proven with a breath test, because a breath test cannot detect the presence of drugs. While a blood test can, a urine test is typically a cheaper and easier way to test for the presence of drugs.
Urine tests can be incredibly inaccurate. A report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that nearly 20 percent of labs that processed urine samples detected narcotics in their reports when no drugs were actually in the sample.
If you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test or field sobriety test. You are not required to consent to field sobriety tests, and there is no penalty for refusing them.
The same is not true for chemical tests. Under Georgia's implied consent laws, there are penalties for refusal to consent to a Georgia chemical test. First, a person's driver's license will automatically be suspended for 1 year. Under this type of refusal suspension, a person cannot request limited driving privileges. If you have been charged with refusal, there are ways to defend your case and protect your rights, including the right to drive.
A "drug recognition expert" is a specially trained officer who is educated in detecting the signs of intoxication by drugs. However, these trainings offer little guidance to officers. The DRE process involves 12 separate steps, all of which are described in detail on our DUI DRE's page.
DUI DREs are not accurate, and their training has been shown to yield no better results in detecting intoxication that most standard trainings all officers go through. This is important to show at trial, otherwise, the jury will hear "expert" and assume they can rely on his or her testimony. An experienced Georgia DUI lawyer will show them that they should not rely on that testimony.
One method of investigation law enforcement commonly use are roadside checkpoints. A roadside checkpoint is designed to stop every car that goes through it in order to find and arrest suspected intoxicated drivers. They are subject to very strict legal rules, and if the checkpoint fails to follow those rules, the arrest may be deemed unconstitutional. This can result in a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you.
At the checkpoint, officers will look for:
- the odor of alcohol in the car or on your person
- open containers of alcohol
- visible drugs or paraphernalia
- signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, or bloodshot eyes
I've Been Arrested - What Should I Do?
If you are arrested for a DUI, there are certain steps you should take both during the arrest and immediately after. DUI charges in Georgia are strictly enforced and come with substantial penalties including high fines, driver's license suspension, and jail time.
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI, follow these tips:
- Remain silent – Anything that you say could be used against you in court. Silence cannot under Georgia law.
- Request a DMV hearing – You have 30 days from your arrest to preserve your driver's license.
- Contact an attorney right away – You need a trusted advocate on your side to fight for your rights.
Consult an Atlanta DUI Attorney
If you or someone you care about faces DUI charges in Atlanta or the surrounding areas, an experienced Atlanta DUI attorney can protect your constitutional rights. Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.