No matter where an individual gets pulled over, most DUI stops look very similar. In Atlanta, just like in other locations, police officers will follow protocol that includes nationally standardized sobriety tests to investigate whether a person is under the influence. It is important to be aware of what law enforcement may be looking for and to contact an Atlanta DUI lawyer immediately if an arrest is made.
One of the key ways an arrest for DUI is different from an arrest for almost any other serious offense is that with a DUI, the primary witness to the event is almost always the police officer. There are some exceptions, but with most DUIs the main witness is a police officer. In contrast, with a bank robbery or a murder, for example, the key witness is generally a frightened civilian.
When a driver is pulled over, they need to be aware that if the officer can detect any signs of alcohol, marijuana, or drug consumption, he or she is most likely going to start the DUI investigation. If the officer smells alcohol, burnt marijuana, or even unused marijuana, they are more than likely going to investigate.
If any driver ever hears sirens behind them or sees blue lights in the rear view mirror, the first thing to do is remember that the officer is either telling the driver to pull over, or that they need to get by the car. If the driver sees the blue lights, they should put on their turn signal and carefully pull over to the other side. The officer may keep going and not bother the driver. If the officer pulls up behind the driver and it is obvious that they are coming up to the car for a traffic stop, the key thing to do is to be polite. Not many people have gotten out of a ticket by being rude, but many times the officers have let people go or given them a warning for the traffic offense when they have been polite and cooperative.
Drivers should stay in the car, which is what the officers want them to do, and should put their hands in plain sight, perhaps on the steering wheel. When the officer asks for license and registration, the driver should turn slowly and get the license. Do not make any sudden movements or show signs of being rude, always cooperate with the officer as far as giving them license and insurance information.
If the officers ask to take a portable breath test, unless the driver is certain they are 0.04 or below, it is best to refuse to take the portable breath test because it can be used as evidence to support the decision to arrest the individual. Likewise, if the officers smell alcohol, they may want to administer field sobriety tests, and it is best to refuse those as well. If a driver has not admitted to any consumption, has not taken the portable breath test, and has not submitted to any field sobriety test, then three significant pieces of information that the officer could use as evidence to justify the arrest in court have been eliminated.
The key things to do are to pull over, be polite, and comply with the officer’s request for information, but do not admit to drinking or agreeing to take a portable breath test or field sobriety test.
Once a driver has been pulled over and the law enforcement officer has detected some sign that the diver might be impaired or has consumed alcohol or another drug, the officer will usually ask questions about where the person has been, where they are coming from, and what they were doing. When the officer is asking these questions, he or she is looking to see how the driver responds. For example, whether or not they have slurred speech, are able to form sentences, are making sense, and are coherent, as well as what the answers to the questions are.
The officers will usually ask the driver, point blank, if they have been drinking. If the driver says yes, the investigation is going to continue, and if the driver says no, the investigation can still continue, even if the officers believe it.
In most cases, law enforcement will ask for participation in field sobriety testing. They will ask the driver to step out of the vehicle, at which point it is generally in the driver’s best interest to step out and show that they are willing to cooperate.
If the officers say that they need to do field sobriety tests, the driver should politely decline. They are voluntary tests and individuals cannot be required to do them. If the officer says that he or she is going to arrest the driver, they should not resist, fight, kick, or curse. Anything that is said in front of a law enforcement official can and may be recorded and played again in court.
Similarly, if the officer asks for consent to search the vehicle, the driver does not have to give permission to conduct the search and should politely decline. The officer may follow with a request for a search warrant, or may decide to conduct the search against the driver’s wishes, which is outside of their legal abilities. If the officer thinks that he or she has a legal way to search the car, they can choose to do so, but if the driver gives consent to the search, they have an absolutely legal way.
The number one mistake to avoid during an Atlanta traffic stop is being rude to the police officer, and people seem to confuse the concept of standing up for their rights with the idea of being rude. Being rude or offensive with the officers is not going to help anything. Many times police officers will give individuals a written warning for an offense if the person has been polite and cooperative, but when the person is rude, racist, or offensive, they take away any incentive the officer may have had to let them go with merely a warning.
With that said, the most important thing is to be polite. Being polite does not have to mean that you agree to everything the officer asks you to. Even if you are going to refuse to give permission for the officer to search your car, do so politely. It does not take any more effort to be polite and it may help you in the long run.