Drinking and driving is dangerous and has serious consequences for a driver if arrested and convicted.  Unfortunately, many drivers are charged with DUI even though they are not impaired.  In fact, some cities require officers to make a specific number of DUI arrests each year, thus increasing the chances of innocent people being wrongfully charged.   If you are stopped for suspicion of DUI, remember the following:

1. Stay calm and find a safe place to pull over

Police officers are trained to proceed with caution and to make safety their primary concern. Officers make observations during a stop to determine if a driver is impaired and include such observations in the police report.

Therefore, use your turn signal before pulling over and remain calm.   Avoid driving erratically or stopping abruptly and pull over in a safe location.  Avoid making any sudden movements, turn your radio off, and keep your hands visible at all times (preferably on the steering wheel). Also, do not exit your vehicle unless instructed to do so and calmly wait for the police officer to approach your vehicle.

2. Do not incriminate yourself

If you had a drink prior to being stopped, it is important to avoid incriminating yourself. Although it’s not a good idea, it is not illegal to drink and drive – it is only illegal to drive while impaired.  When approached, the police officer will ask to see your driver’s license and proof of insurance, and may ask your name, address, and date of birth. If the officer asks you other questions, such as where you’ve been, if you’ve been drinking, or how much you’ve been drinking, it may be wise to politely decline to respond by simply saying, “I will not answer any questions and request my attorney.” The less you say, the better.

3. Know the consequences for taking or refusing field sobriety tests

In Georgia, you will likely be asked to perform a series of field sobriety evaluations.  These evaluations are completely voluntary and may be refused without penalty.  The evaluations usually include: a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test, a One Leg Stand, and a Walk and Turn evaluation. These tests are subjective and many drivers fail them even if they are not under the influence of alcohol. Factors that affect one’s ability to perform the evaluations include: the time of day, poor balance, a medical condition, bad weather, poor vision, uneven surfaces, or many other reasons. Remember, you are under no legal obligation to participate in such exercises and no legal penalty attaches for declining to take these tests.  It may be wise to politely decline all field sobriety evaluations.

4. Know the consequences for taking or refusing chemical tests

During the roadside investigation, the police officer will normally ask you to consent to a breath test during the traffic stop. This roadside breath test is done with a handheld device known as the “Alco-sensor.”  This device is not the official state breath test and is only used to determine whether your breath is “positive or negative” for alcohol. Much like the field sobriety tests discussed in paragraph 3, there is no penalty for refusing to blow into this device at the scene.  Again, it is usually wise to politely decline to perform this roadside breath test.

If arrested, however, the police officer will ask that you take an official state breath test at the police station on a device known as the Intoxilyzer 5000. There is a dilemma in deciding whether or not to submit to this official state breath test: If you decide to take the test and blow over the legal limit of 0.08, your license will be administratively suspended by the Department of Driver Services (“DDS”); or, if you refuse to take the official state breath test, the DDS will also attempt to administratively suspend your license for a year.  However, there are no criminal penalties for refusing the test and there will be no evidence of your alcohol concentration for use if your case were to go to trial. Therefore, it may also be wise to politely decline to take the official state breath test.  Regardless of your decision to take or not take the official state breath test, our firm has great success in preventing the suspension of your license by the DDS.

5. Know the potential consequences for a DUI conviction and contact an experienced DUI attorney

A DUI conviction can be extremely costly and may affect your current and future employment.  Additionally, you can face jail time, probation, fines, community service, and court-ordered treatment and classes. Your driver’s license may be revoked, your vehicle may be impounded, and your insurance policy may be cancelled or your rates may drastically increase.  Further, if convicted, you may be restricted from travelling to certain countries, such as Canada.

If you or a loved one is charged with DUI in Georgia, contact one of our attorneys at Arora & LaScala to represent you as soon as possible.  The paperwork necessary to appeal a potential license suspension must be filed within 10 business days, so do not delay!  One of our experienced DUI attorneys can help you successfully navigate through the process and achieve the best possible resolution.

If you have any questions regarding this blog please feel free to contact our attorneys by either leaving a comment or submitting a contact form.

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