Georgia Criminal Defense Blog, December 2015
Marco A. Corales, CORALES & WOODY, LLC
AFTER THE NEW YEAR’S EVE PARTY: WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE SUSPECTED OF DUI
It‘s that time again when we celebrate the New Year with friends and family and raise a glass to the year gone by. It’s also the time when law enforcement ramps up its DUI investigations. While it’s always best to be safe by using a designated driver or using services like Uber or Lyft to get you home after your celebrations, it’s useful to know what to do if you are one of the unlucky people who are investigated for DUI.
ALWAYS BE RESPECTFUL
Being investigated by the police for a criminal offense is NOT the time to lose your cool. Pull over carefully when you see the blue lights behind you. Keep your license in an easily accessible place so you can retrieve it quickly and have it ready for the officer. When the officer asks you to step out of the car, do so quickly and calmly. When speaking to the officer, use as few words as possible (to avoid showing slurred speech patterns and potentially giving the odor of an alcoholic beverage), and don’t use foul language. By keeping a level head, you give the officer less “evidence” that you are potentially intoxicated, which helps your case down the road.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT…USE IT!
While you should certainly be respectful and level-headed, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything the officer asks of you. You have the right to remain silent and to not say anything or do anything that can be used against you in court. So, for example, when the officer asks you how much you’ve had to drink, you don’t have to answer that question! You can either say nothing, or, if you feel the urge to respond, you can say that you decline to answer the question. Simple as that.
This right also extends to field sobriety tests (typically, the HGN or “eye“ test, the walk-and-turn, the one-leg stand and the portable breath test, among others). You have the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to refuse all field sobriety tests. Any field sobriety test that you agree to is just more evidence against you. By simply refusing to participate in field sobriety tests, you are giving yourself a better chance to beat your case in court.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THE BREATH TEST AT THE JAIL, EITHER
If the officer decides to arrest you for DUI, you will be asked to submit to a test of your breath, blood or urine for the presence of alcohol or other intoxicants. The officer will do this by reading you an Implied Consent Notice explaining the consequences of a refusal, your right to an additional independent test and, finally, asking if you will submit to the test. You have the right to say NO!
It’s true that by refusing the test, you are subject to a 12-month administrative suspension of your license (this is separate from the 120-day criminal suspension imposed for a first DUI conviction in a 5-year period). The fear of a 12-month suspension is what causes most drivers to submit to the test. However, this suspension can be contested at an Administrative License Suspension Hearing. It can get a bit complicated, but an experienced lawyer can explain all the ins and outs of this hearing and put together a strategy to keep you driving legally. The important thing is to request the hearing in a timely fashion (within 10 business days of your arrest), so you should definitely contact a lawyer as soon as possible to assist with this.
While the potential consequences of refusing the breath test may sound harsh, consider the consequences of agreeing to the test: if you are over the legal limit, and the Implied Consent notice is properly read to you, the State will likely have all the evidence it needs to get a conviction against you, making it much more difficult to achieve a favorable resolution in your case. The State needs evidence to make a case against you. If you don’t give them the evidence, you stand a much better chance of beating your case. Refusing all testing is a good strategy that gives your lawyer something to work with.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT ROAD BLOCKS
A DUI road-block is one of law enforcement’s favored tactics at times when they feel a higher number of impaired drivers may be on the road. If you come up to a road block, don’t try to make a U-turn to avoid it. The officers will likely see you and the illegal U-turn you just made will give them a legal reason to pull you over and investigate you. Just continue through the roadblock and deal with the officers in the way that has been outlined above. At road blocks, officers often have even less evidence against you because they can’t say you were stopped for speeding, not maintaining your lane or otherwise driving erratically (all of which are used as signs of impaired driving). If you remain calm and refuse to provide evidence against yourself, you will go a long way towards protecting yourself in court with a good lawyer at your side. If you are suspected of DUI, don’t hesitate to call us at 678-961-3999.