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What to do if pulled over for a Georgia DUI

The Blue Lights Go On Behind You

When those blue lights go on behind you, you have to consider what you are going to do.  It is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience.  The important thing is to keep your cool and follow a few tips.  This will place you ahead of many people who get pulled over.

Pull Over

If the officer has activated his blue lights, he is indicating that you should pull over.  Even if you're not sure that he is wanting you in particular to pull over, you need to begin to pull over because state law requires you to yield to emergency vehicles with their lights activated.  If he passes you by, then maybe you just got lucky, but failure to pull over can draw attention to yourself and can result in additional charges.  Pull over at the nearest safe spot to do so.  Particularly, if you are a female, I encourage you for that to be at a lighted location where other people can see you.  Personal safety is important as there have been cases of police imposters as well as police officers using the strobe lights to rob or assault travelers.

Have Your Papers In Order

You should always have your proof of insurance and driver's license where you can obtain them rapidly and without fumbling.  If you are slow in producing these items or have difficulty producing them, the officer may testify that that was evidence indicating that you were under the influence.  Think ahead and make sure these documents are where you can obtain them easily.

Bring Passengers Under Control

If you have passengers, make sure that they behave themselves.  They should not make any statements unless they are requested to do so by the officer.  Even then, they should limit their statements to their identity.

Be Polite

Always be polite to an officer.  He or she does have a tough job and should be given the benefit of the doubt.  Your statements may be recorded and you may be being videotapes.  Inappropriate conduct or statements can hurt you later.  Do not curse at the officer.  Do not make demands of the officer.  Cooperate with the officer within the bounds described here.

Limit Your Statements

Say as little as possible.  The officer may attempt to point to your manner of speech as a clue that you are impaired.  "Slurred speech" is  a phrase that appears in a great number of DUI arrest reports.  The less you say, the less noticeable any speech patterns you may have.  Do not discuss your drinking with the officer.  The officer may ask you if you've had anything to drink.  Shrug or say that you'd rather not answer that question.  If he or she pushes, ask if you need to get a lawyer.  Under no circumstances should you admit to drinking or describe how many drinks you've had.  Saying you've only had two beers is like saying that you're drunk to an officer.

Obey Lawful Orders of an Officer

It can be tricky sometimes to know whether an order is lawful or not.  Your best bet is to give the benefit of the doubt to the officer and follow instructions.  That does not mean that you have to volunteer information, particularly incriminating information.  You generally do not have to disclose your private medical information, including prescription medication usage.

You do have to lower your window when directed.  In fact, it is best to lower your windows very early after you are signaled to stop.  This allows any odors that were trapped in the car to dissipate.

You and your passengers do have to exit the vehicle if instructed to do so.  

You do have to provide your drivers license and other documents relating to your operation of the vehicle.  Your passengers may be requested to provide identification or identify themselves.  While they are not obligated to do so, failure to do so may cause further issues if the officer can identify officer safety issues related to that decision.

You do have to submit to a pat down for weapons.  The officer is not entitled to go into your pockets or clothing to determine what an object is unless it feels like a weapon.

Decline to Do Field Sobriety Exercises

Even if you are stone cold sober, you should decline to participate in any field sobriety exercises.  These exercises are designed to produce failure and the officer will use them to obtain evidence to prosecute you.  Don't do eye tests, alphabet tests, counting tests, agility tests, walking tests, balance tests, or roadside breath tests (In Georgia, these roadside test numerical results are not admissible in evidence).

If you do not do these tests perfectly, the officer will assume that you are under the influence of something.  If he or she does not smell an alcoholic beverage, he or she is likely to assume that you are under the influence of drugs or medications or other substances. This tendency has increased over the last few years as more officers have received training that supposedly helps them detect persons with other substances in their systems.

Be Careful in Agreeing to a Chemical Test

If you have consumed any amount of alcohol or a prescription or non-prescription drug, whether legally or illegally, you should be very careful in submitting to a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine.  If you have had such consumption, then you should probably not submit to such testing if you fall into any one of the following categories:

  • You are a driver licensed by a state other than Georgia

  • You have a commercial driver's license

  • You are under the age of twenty-one (21) years

  • You have been involved in a wreck where someone may have been seriously injured or killed

  • You have consumed an illegal drug other than marijuana within a few days of driving
  • You have consumed marijuana within a couple of hours of driving

Georgia officers are very likely to ask that you submit to a blood testing or to blood testing.  This is driven by the fact that under Georgia constitutional law a refusal to submit to a breath or urine test cannot be used in evidence against a person.   If you have had a significant amount to drink, then you should refuse the state chemical testing.  This puts the officer in the position of proving impairment, that you were less safe to drive. Breath tests can be unreliable and can produce falsely high results if not handled correctly.

Under Georgia precedent an officer charging a person with driving under the influence of marijuana must show that the person was impaired by that substance.  Presence of illegal substances other than marijuana in the blood is likely sufficient to establish a DUI charge.

If you do decide to submit to the state chemical test, you have a right to obtain an independent test of your choice and the officer must assist you within reason in obtaining the test.  You should always exercise that right.  If the use is very recent or occurred after driving, you should consider requesting a urine test or a blood and a urine test.  One expert suggests that where there has been drinking after driving ended, that you should obtain blood and urine and then obtain a second urine test an hour after the first draw.  You may also request a second breath test on a different machine.

If you do not submit to the state chemical test and are released within a few hours of arrest, you should go and obtain a blood test immediately.

In most cases, the simple advice is usually the best:  Just Say No.  No to roadside tests.  No to chemical breath, blood or urine tests.  

Ask for a Lawyer

Ask to be allowed to speak to an attorney as soon as possible.  The officer does not have to stop the arrest or booking process to allow you to call an attorney, but you should put it on the record that you want a lawyer.  After you make this statement, do not make any other statements about your case.  Be aware that most patrol cars have the ability to record statements that you make in the car or near the officer.   Just because the officer is away from the car or is transporting you does not mean that that hidden microphone is not active and recording your statements.  Some officers are now equipped with body cams.

Make Bond as Soon as Possible

Even though I have said for you to ask for a lawyer, your first phone call needs to be to someone who can get you out of jail, whether a family member or a bondsman.

Talk to a DUI Lawyer

After you are out of jail, consider having a blood or urine test done as described above and then call and talk to a DUI lawyer the next business day after your arrest.  You may have a limited time to file paperwork to protect your license to drive.  A lawyer who knows how to and does defend DUI cases will not be cheap.  The laws are constantly changing and many people who did not fight DUI cases a decade or more ago now regret that decision because of the continuing stigma and consequences of having a DUI on your record.  The DUI lawyer can provide you with valuable insight into the possible defense of your case.  Don't make a decision to forego appropriate representation to save money now; it will likely cost you more in the long run.

What About Jail Mail?

In some jurisdictions, your arrest will trigger a barrage of mail to your bond address offering that they can represent you on your charges.  Be very careful about this.  Do your homework before selecting a lawyer.  Take a look at our Finding a DUI Lawyer page for the "how to" of selecting a lawyer.


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