We have talked a lot about what happens after you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, but what happens before you get arrested is just as interesting and important to know about. Here’s what you need to know the minutes those blue lights start flashing in your rearview mirror.
1) The stopping procedure. Most of the time you will be able to tell that the officer is specifically signaling you to pull over to the side. The officer is already evaluating you during this time, so make sure to obey all traffic laws (like using your signal) and stop in a safe place and manner.
2) More than just a documents request. One of the first things the police officer will do is ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Not only is this required to confirm that you are in fact a licensed driver who is allowed to operate that particular car and are driving with necessary insurance—this is also a time for the officer to perform the first of several personal evaluations of your ability to follow instructions and evaluate your overall demeanor. Someone who fumbles for their documents and looks frazzled will be of more interest than someone who quickly and readily produces the requested documents.
NOTE: Be polite. There is no easier way to talk yourself into an arrest than to become belligerent or abusive towards the officer who pulled you over. This behavior also may increase the officer’s suspicion. Being polite and cooperative does not mean you will get out of further action, but you will appear in the best light possible at a later date to the judge.
4) The interview. Keep in mind that the officer is not asking questions out of curiosity. He or she is seeking evidence to arrest you. Not only will you be asked questions to find out where you have been, where you are going, and whether you’ve been drinking, but the officer will also ask general questions to gauge your speech and whether it is slurred. Slurred speech is a strong sign of intoxication, and the more you speak, the more slurred your speech may appear to be. Additionally, the officer is looking for signs like delayed responses, answers to the wrong question, etc. Remember, you aren’t required to answer any questions beyond providing your identity and the requested documents.
5) The field sobriety tests (FSTs). First, remember that the officer is seeking evidence to arrest you. And even though the officer may make you feel required to submit to the FSTs, they are voluntary! These tests are overwhelmingly subjective in nature, meaning the officer’s judgment as to your performance is relied upon heavily when making the determination of whether there is probable cause to arrest you for DUI.
6) The portable breath test (PBT). Like the FSTs, this roadside breath test is completely voluntary. Again, the officer continues to search for evidence to arrest you. These tests are not scientifically reliable. In fact, they are so unreliable, the numeric value of your result may not be used in court against you. But it CAN be used as probable cause to arrest you! Many people believe that if they “blow under the legal limit,” the officer will let them go. But remember, you can be arrested in Georgia for DUI even if you blow under the “legal limit.” This is called DUI less safe, and it carries the same punishment as blowing over the legal limit.
7) The state-administered test. After arrest, the officer will read your implied consent rights and tell you that you are required to submit to a state-administered test of your blood, breath, or urine. Remember, despite this advisory, you are NOT required to submit to the test, although there will be adverse effects to your drivers license if you refuse.
8) If you are arrested, do not answer any more questions. In the squad car heading back to the station for booking, you may find your officer to be chatty and seeking conversation. Do not talk to the officer. They are not trying to be your friend and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to remain silent—use it.
Of course, once you are booked, your first call should be to Savannah DUI Law so that our experienced attorneys can be there for you at your arraignment and throughout the entire process to work to get you the best possible outcome. Call us at (912) 221-4441 if you ever find yourself in this situation!