How to Beat a DUI Charge in Georgia
Although ordinarily prosecuted as a misdemeanor, the consequences of a conviction or guilty plea to a DUI charge can be extraordinarily destructive: jail time, loss of driving privileges, fines, fees, community service, probation supervision, and rehabilitation classes. All of these cost money and invite State interference into your private life for months, or even years, in the future.
This is why you need to hire a skilled and experienced DUI criminal defense lawyer to defend your rights and preserve your defenses. Experienced DUI lawyers know how to examine the police reports, toxicology reports, witness statements, and accident reports, if any, to see where there are weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Many times these vulnerabilities are not immediately apparent, but lie hidden under stock phrases, technical jargon, and legalese.
A good criminal defense lawyer will also prepare you for each stage of a prosecution so that you feel less overwhelmed and more in control. And while fully defending you, a good criminal defense attorney will create the best record for probation. Only experienced counsel knows how to do this to your benefit.
- Do not speak with police officers when stopped for a DUI. You are only under an obligation to produce your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. You only need to tell the officer your name and address. Anything else you say can be used against you. Chatting casually with officers or even answering their direct questions offers them opportunities to observe your behaviors, hesitations, and gather evidence of your capacity to drive. By remaining silent, you are preserving your right not to provide the evidence needed to convict you of a DUI.
If you admit to using even over-the-counter drugs that might have an impact on your ability to drive, police can insist that you submit to a blood or urine test. And to retain your driver’s license, you must consent or be compelled by a warrant. No matter what that refusal can cost you your license for up to 12 months.
And if arrested, do not speak with other people held in jail. You have no idea who anyone is and what they might do to secure a better deal or lighter sentence. Don’t give anyone an opportunity to testify against you.
- Do not yell or act belligerently. Remember there are often body and vehicle-mounted cameras, so any of your behaviors, as well as those of the police, are likely to be recorded. And your hostile or threatening attitude can turn a prosecutor, judge, or jury against you.
- Do not take any field sobriety or roadside breathalyzer tests unless you know you have not been drinking or using drugs that might impair your capacity to drive. These tests are voluntary and they are highly unreliable. Field sobriety tests are subjective and dependent on the police officer’s training and objectivity.
There are several types of field sobriety evaluations: a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test, a Walk and Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test. In addition, officers might ask you to recite the alphabet, stand with your feet close together while tipping your head skyward, count the number of fingers the officer has raised, closing your eyes and touching a finger to your nose, or counting backwards. These tests are quite subjective. Different officers interpret a driver’s performance differently. In addition, roadside conditions, such as temperature and weather, can impact your performance negatively but not be accurately reflected in the police report.
By giving an officer less opportunity to observe your behaviors, especially in response to commands and complex instructions, you are giving the police less evidence as to your state of mind.
You can also refuse to take a roadside breath test using a handheld device, such as an Alco-sensor. The device only determines the presence of alcohol, not the extent of intoxication or impairment, if any. You may refuse to take this Alco-sensor test without legal penalty.
You can refuse a roadside breathalyzer test, too. A breathalyzer attempts to measure the blood alcohol content in an individual’s system. It calculates the absorption rate of a beam of light that passes through the suspect’s breath which might contain alcohol molecules. The roadside breathalyzer is a very inaccurate way to measure blood alcohol content, as variations in the readings can result from deeper and longer exhalations. The number registered on a roadside breathalyzer is not admissible in a later trial although the fact that it was administered and whether it showed evidence of drinking is. Therefore, avoid this evidence by refusing to take these roadside tests.
- Know that in refusing to take these unreliable roadside tests, you might be immediately arrested and taken to the police station if there is even subjective evidence of intoxication. Once at the station you do not have the right to refuse to take an Intoxilyzer 9000, blood, or urine test, without consequences. Refusal to take any of these will result in an automatic suspension of your license. If you refuse, the police may seek a warrant to force you to submit to giving blood or urine.
If I take the Intoxilyzer 9000 test, do I have any defenses left if my blood alcohol levels reach per se levels?
No test is perfect, including the Intoxilyzer 9000. How the test is administered must follow strict guidelines. Before administering the test, the officer must have observed the suspected DUI driver directly and continuously for a minimum of 20 minutes. This is required to eliminate any possible residual mouth alcohol, which might skewer the results.
Smokeless tobacco, denture adhesive, mints, lip balm, and blood can cause higher readings if present in your mouth at the time of testing.
Some medical conditions will also slant the results. Gastric reflux and regurgitation can raise the level of mouth alcohol. The device must be regularly inspected, tested, and cleaned. And officers must be continuously trained to operate the Intoxilyzer 9000.
And the test must be administered within 3 hours of driving in order to accurately measure the amount of alcohol consumed.
The officer must obtain two samples of your breath and the results must be within 0.020 grams percent of each other to be admissible as reliable.
Lastly, small-framed women are biased in the test, scoring higher than their actual blood alcohol levels.
Do not resist arrest. In addition to avoiding ambiguous behaviors that can be misinterpreted as aggressive, do not actively resist arrest. Presume that this roadside interaction with police is being recorded by either a body or vehicle-mounted camera. Remain silent and ask to call your DUI lawyer.
You have no expectation of privacy when confronted by police at a traffic stop. Your conversations with any passengers can be included in any police reports and testimony. Even if you call your DUI lawyer, that conversation, if held so that police can overhear, is not privileged. Anything that you say in front of officers is admissible in their police reports and later in court.
Remember everyone’s name. The arresting officer, the nurse who gathered your blood or urine, the booking officer, any witnesses, any other drivers, all of these people might hold exonerating testimony. Those names are potential witnesses who can corroborate your story, or the police version. Your defense lawyer will want to know who they are.
To protect your right to drive, you must file a request for an ALS Hearing within 30 days of arrest. If you refused to take a breath, blood, or urine test at the police station, and that refusal is submitted to GA DDS, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended. You have exactly 30 days from arrest to appeal this administrative decision. The request costs $150, which fee must be paid at the time the request is filed. Do not miss this exclusive opportunity to retain your driving privileges. Call a skilled and experienced DUI lawyer to preserve all your defenses and rights.