DUI Arrest at a Checkpoint or Traffic Stop
If you get convicted of a DUI it may not matter much whether you were arrested at a sobriety checkpoint or after a traffic stop. But it may make a difference to your Atlanta DUI defense lawyer. This is because there are different standards for what the police must do at a traffic stop and at a DUI roadblock. If the police didn't follow the rules and your rights were violated, you may see your DUI charges dropped or reduced.
Atlanta Traffic Stop
Lots of us have had an experience with a traffic stop at least once in our lives. When you see the lights and sirens in your rearview mirror, you know that there is a good chance you'll end up with a ticket. You may think you were speeding, or trying to beat a light, or even if you don't know why you were stopped, you probably aren't looking forward to your interaction with the officer.
Even if you thought you weren't doing anything to get pulled over, the police have to have a reason to stop you. They have to have specific and articulable facts to justify a traffic stop. It could include a number of traffic violations like speeding, driving without your lights on, or failing to signal properly. They could also stop you for something like a broken tail light.
When it comes to a police officer's reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence, they may be looking for signs associated with impaired driving. This includes:
- weaving across the road
- almost hitting a curb or other object
- erratic braking
- slow response to traffic signals
- driving on the wrong side of the road
If the police witness this kind of driving, they may pull over a driver and look for other signs of alcohol or drug use. If the police officer suspects the driver is under the influence, they will try and conduct field sobriety tests and have the driver give a breath sample before arresting them for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Atlanta DUI Checkpoint
Most states use DUI checkpoints, including Georgia, and they have been found legal under state and federal laws. However, just because DUI checkpoints are legal does not mean that the police department is conducting it properly. There are guidelines law enforcement should follow to make sure the DUI checkpoint is not overly intrusive.
Sobriety checkpoints should be done in a place that makes sense and where it's safe for the community. There should be proper signage, and lighting to let people know they are approaching a checkpoint. Uniformed officers and marked police vehicles should be used to let people know the road block is legitimate. There should be a neutral criteria for stopping cars instead of the police just stopping whoever they want. Notice should be given to the public that there will be a DUI checkpoint.
If you are one of the people stopped at a DUI checkpoint, the police don't have to have reasonable suspicion to stop you because the courts consider the stop to be a minor intrusion, even if it doesn't seem minor to you. During that brief stop, the police will look for signs of alcohol or drug use.
The most obvious things they look for are slurred speech, blood-shot eyes, and open containers of alcohol in the car. They may ask if you've been drinking. You should not lie, because if they smell alcohol and you say you were not drinking, they will think you are hiding something. Saying nothing is better than lying. If you don't want to incriminate yourself, you don't have to answer that question. That is your right under the U.S. Constitution.
At this point, if the police have reasons to believe you are intoxicated, just like a traffic stop, the police will have you pull to the side and further investigate. They will try and conduct field sobriety tests and have the driver give a breath sample before arresting them for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You can refuse these tests.
Arrested for an Atlanta DUI
Once you are arrested for a DUI in Atlanta, you are required to submit to a chemical test. This is different from the field breath test, or field breathalyzer, that the police use on the side of the road. When you are arrested, you may be asked to submit to a breath, blood or urine test, to test for the presence of drugs or level of alcohol in the body. If you refuse this test, then the Department of Driver Services will administratively suspend your driver's license for a year.
If you are stopped by police for a traffic violation, or encounter a DUI checkpoint, any signs of alcohol impairment may lead to a DUI arrest. But just because you were arrested does not mean you have to be convicted of any crime. Contact an experienced Atlanta DUI lawyer to make sure you don't get pushed around by the prosecutor. You may have a better chance than you realize. Call me anytime, and I will make sure you are treated fairly by the courts and keep your record clean.