Driving under the influence is never a good idea. Your vision may be blurred, your reaction times will be slower, and you will be more likely to take risks. Your life as well as those of your passengers and other road users’ will be at stake. Still, if a police officer pulls you over and arrests you on suspicion of a DUI, you may consider yourself unlucky. You may even question whether the DUI stop in Atlanta was legal in the hopes of getting the charges dropped.
Despite what you may think, the police don’t just stop random vehicles, test the drivers and search their vehicles. Rather, they must have a legitimate reason for stopping you and there are laws governing searches. However, you may not have the rights you think you do during a DUI stop. This post will outline some of the things you should look out for if the police stop you. For personalized advice, reach out to an Atlanta, Georgia DUI defense attorney to discuss your case.
Why Police May Pull You Over
DUI stops typically involve three phases. In phase one, the officer notices a motorist’s driving and looks for reasons to explain their actions. Naturally, the police can pull you over if you break a traffic law. They can also stop you if they believe you are about to commit a traffic offense. In addition, there are a number of cues of impaired driving that officers are trained to spot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has identified 20 indicators of impairment. They include:
- Straddling a lane line
- Coming close to striking an object
- Turning with a wide radius
- Driving the wrong way
- Responding slowly to traffic signals
- Stopping for no obvious reason
These actions can result in the officer pulling you over. Making contact with you is the second phase. The officer will ask you to step out of the vehicle and they will study you for:
- Slurred speech
- The smell of alcohol on your breath
- Bloodshot eyes
- Difficulty taking out your license
In the third phase, you will be asked to take field sobriety tests. The standardized test comprises the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and the one-leg stand. There are many reasons why an individual could fail one or all of these tests even if they aren’t intoxicated. However, as Georgia DUI lawyers know, this is when officers gather lots of evidence that could lead to arrest. They may tell you they just want to make sure you can drive home but that’s not the case. It’s important that you know your rights so no one takes advantage of you.
Motorists’ Rights During a DUI Stop in Atlanta
If you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of a DUI, you have the right to remain silent. The officer will ask you questions regarding where you’re coming from or how much you had to drink. Beyond basic requests for your name and address, you don’t have to answer their questions. You also don’t have the right to ask for a lawyer and you won’t be read your Miranda warnings. That being said, everything you say and do will be recorded and can be used against you.
Some people assume that they have to do whatever a police officer asks of them even if there’s no coercion. However, you need to know that field sobriety tests are voluntary, and you can opt not to perform them. Similarly, the officer can’t just randomly search your vehicle. They have to either get your consent, arrest you, have probable cause, or have a warrant. However, if they smell marijuana coming from your vehicle, they don’t need to ask for permission to search.
Of course, despite what the law says, officers don’t always act in the way they should. Concepts like “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” can be open to interpretation. In addition, field sobriety tests are not always accurate. That’s why you need to contact an attorney and share all the details of your stop, testing, and arrest. If the police made some type of error, they will discover it.
Contact Howard & Arca to Discuss Your Case!
You shouldn’t have to suffer because of an illegal DUI stop in Atlanta. Interactions involving the police can be complex and you may not fully understand what happened. Our DUI defense law firm Atlanta will do everything possible to ensure your rights are protected. We’ll look into the facts of your case. If possible, we’ll work to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.