If you or someone you know gets arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, anyone they tell may sound like all of a sudden they are an armchair expert in DUI law. You may hear all sorts of advice about what the police have to do at a roadside stop, or what a lawyer would say, or what happens if the police officer doesn't show up to trial. Before you take any of this well-meaning advice, make sure you do your homework. The wrong information could leave you high and dry.
You should consider where this information is coming from. It could be from a friend who had a friend of a friend with a DUI. How accurate is this information? Sometimes people like to embellish a story, to make it sound better than it really was, or even worse than it really was. Other times it may be based on something someone saw on TV, which is not usually the best source for actual legal advice.
If you have any questions about your DUI case, including how to file for an ALS hearing so you don't lose your license, give me a call. I am happy to talk to you about your case, how to fight the DUI charges, and why you need to file an ALS hearing within 10 days, or your license may be suspended. I can also give you real experience-based information on DUI cases, based on my successful representation of hundreds of people facing a DUI.
“I was never told I had the right to remain silent.”
This is something a lot of people have questions about. We've all heard the Miranda warnings police officers give criminal suspects on TV shows. After the television cops track someone down and arrest them, they will usually give some version of Miranda rights. You know how it goes:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand?
Then later in the show, it may turn out that the suspect was pressured into giving a confession before they were read their rights, and all of a sudden, the suspect is out on the streets. It may make for compelling TV, but that's usually not how things work out in a DUI case.
The Miranda warnings are named from a criminal case in Arizona that eventually made it to the Supreme Court. It involved whether a suspect's confession was given voluntary if he was never informed of his Fifth Amendment rights. After considering the issue, the Court held that a police officer has to inform a suspect of their right to remain silent and their right to a lawyer when taking the suspect into custody. If they don't, then the custodial interrogation may not be admissible in court.
However, this usually doesn't account for much in a DUI case. This is because traffic stops are treated differently than when a person is arrested and taken to the police station. In most cases, a traffic stop doesn't count as a “custodial interrogation.” A traffic stop usually doesn't become custodial for the purposes of Miranda until the driver is arrested or placed in the police car. At this point; however, the police have much of the evidence they will need for the prosecutor to go forward with the case.
Before a driver is arrested, the police will gather as much evidence as they can to justify an arrest. They will observe the driver and how they are driving, noting weaving in and out of lanes and driving with the headlights off, for example. After making the initial stop, they will note if the driver smelled of alcohol, or marijuana paraphernalia was visible in the car. They will note the driver's statements about how much they drank, and if the driver had slurred speech.
The police will usually then move onto field sobriety testing. Though not required, many people submit to these tests believing that if they refuse, they will look more guilty. Unfortunately, due to the accuracy of these tests, performing them may be more harmful than helpful, even for a completely sober driver. The police may also try and get a field breath sample. Again, this is not required, and the device is not always accurate.
With all this information and observations, the police will often testify in court as to what they say, in order to try and get a conviction for driving under the influence. However, there is often one other piece of evidence the prosecutor likes to have on their side, and that is the chemical test results. Here is where the implied consent warning comes into place.
Implied Consent Warning
The implied consent warning can be as important in DUI cases as the Miranda warning is in other types of cases. Under Georgia law, any driver arrested on suspicion of DUI is required to submit to a state administered blood, breath or urine test. The purpose of of this test is to determine if the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If your refuse this test, your Georgia driver's license will be suspended for a minimum of one year.
If you refuse to submit to the chemical testing, your refusal can be used against you at trial. If you take the test, and your blood alcohol content (BAC) indicates a level of 0.08% or more, your driver's license may be suspended for a year or more. For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04%. For drivers under 21 years old, the limit is 0.02%.
The other important part of the implied consent warning includes a notice that you are entitled to additional chemical tests of your blood, breath, or urine by a qualified person of your choosing, and at your own expense. If you do not know who to contact or how to get ahold of an independent testing professional, contact your Atlanta DUI lawyer, and they can help you organize an independent test, so you don't have to rely on the state's test personnel.
Your Rights in an Atlanta DUI Case
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a DUI in Atlanta, you may not know where to turn. Just because you were arrested does not mean that you are guilty of any crime. Make sure you understand your rights. As an experienced DUI lawyer, I have successfully represented hundreds of people facing a DUI. I will make sure you don't have to go through this alone, and fight to see that you get the fair treatment you deserve. Call my office anytime with any questions you may have.