While the basis for a police officer's initial stop of you or your vehicle may help support his decision to arrest you for DUI, the officer is also required to have probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence. This applies whether it was a traffic violation, or the officer was responding to a car accident.
As a Hall County DUI Attorney, my practice is based on defending those accused of drug and alcohol-related crimes. In today's post, I'm going to explain probable cause, a basic (but very significant) part of any DUI arrest.
Probable Cause is defined as a requirement found in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution that must generally be met before police receive a warrant, conduct a search, or make an arrest. Courts usually find probable cause where there is a reasonable basis for believing a crime has been committed. The Georgia Constitution offers its citizens even further protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
In a DUI case, an officer sometimes gains information by taking advantage of drivers who are unaware of the law. Before the officer even initiates the stop, evidence is already being gathered against the driver suspected of DUI. Such evidence can be weaving on the roadway, failure to maintain lane, following too closely, accidents, or stop sign violations. All of this probable cause evidence is collected before the driver is even stopped.
Once the traffic stop is initiated, probable cause can be further supported by the law enforcement officer's observations of intoxication. This includes the smell of alcohol on the driver's breath, slurred speech, open containers, bloodshot eyes, and the driver's performance on field sobriety evaluations.
There are certain things a driver can do to minimize the collection of this type of evidence, such as only rolling the window down a crack, making sure you have your license and registration within easy reach, keeping your eyes forward instead of looking into the light the office will shine in your eyes, and not looking the officer directly in the face. While all these things may make an officer suspicious, they do not allow the driver to self-incriminate. It should be mentioned, however, that an experienced DUI Task Force officer will be able to easily recognize these attempts to avoid detection.
The next step in a typical investigation would be for the officer to ask the suspected DUI driver to step out of the vehicle. Generally, this is the step that most drivers could entirely avoid if they were aware of the applicable law. Field sobriety tests, including the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the One Leg Stand (OLS), and the Walk and Turn (WAT), are entirely voluntary. Refusal to participate in a field sobriety test carries no penalty. In fact, most lawyers would advise you to refuse to submit to any of the aforementioned tests regardless of how much you've had to drink. These tests are designed for you to fail. We have even had clients who "failed" a field sobriety test, but the blood test returned with a BAC well below the legal limit.
Knowing your rights can determine whether you will be arrested or not. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson, our Hall County DUI Lawyers are exceptionally qualified to handle your case. If you have been charged with a DUI in Hall County, call our office today. We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.