Roadside Stop Questioning
If you are pulled over by a Georgia State Patrol or Atlanta Police Department officer, you may only have a minute before they come up to your window and start asking questions. Police question driver's all the time. They don't just make random conversation, even if it seems like the questions are harmless. The police are trained to try and get certain information out of a driver, which they can use to justify an arrest.
With any questioning by the police, make sure you stay calm, and act respectful, even if you think the officer is not treating you with the same respect. In the darkness of night, on the side of the road is not the time to start arguing with the police. If the police unjustly arrest you, you will have your chance to say what really happened in court before the judge.
License and registration?
The first thing they may ask for is to see your license, registration and proof of insurance. If the police ask for your driver's license, you are required to provide it. If they ask for insurance, you are required to provide that as well. Driving without a valid license and driving without insurance are misdemeanor violations.
The reason the police ask for this information is not only to determine if the driver's license and insurance is valid, but they can also bring up any records they have for the driver. They will be able to see if the driver has a warrant, any prior criminal charges, and if they have had a prior DUI. Any prior records may tip off the police that the driver is up to the same activity they were arrested for prior.
Do you know why I pulled you over?
This question serves little purpose except to allow you a chance to incriminate yourself. Even if you thought you were speeding, the police officer could have pulled you over because your tail light was out. The simplest response to this question is “no.”
Have you been drinking?
If the police officer smells alcohol coming from the vehicle or from the driver, they may ask about drinking. This can be a tricky question. Any admission of drinking can alert the officer that the driver may be impaired. However, lying to the police won't help. If the police smell alcohol, and the driver said they were not drinking, the officer will believe the driver is lying.
Of course, you have a right to remain silent. You do not have to say anything to the police. That does not mean that you will not get arrested though. If the police arrested you without probable cause of any wrongdoing, at the side of the road is not the place to pick that fight. Struggling or fighting with the police is never a good idea, and can only make things worse. If the police disregarded your legal rights, the place to fight back is in court.
Police officers may try and be more subtle in asking questions to see if your story makes sense, or if you might be lying, such as asking where you are coming from, and where you are headed. They may ask a similar question again, looking for inconsistent statements that show you could be lying. If you say you are coming from work, but it is 8 o'clock at night and you work a 9 to 5 job, the police will be suspicious of the obvious timing inconsistencies.
Follow my finger.
If the police suspect the driver may be under the influence of alcohol, they will start trying to gather additional evidence to justify an arrest. This includes asking the driver to blow into a handheld breathalyzer, and perform roadside sobriety tests. The police won't take the time to advise you of all the pros and cons of each test, and the consequences for refusing to perform the test. However, these tests are not required, and you cannot be penalized for refusing to do them.
The police may make it seem like refusing will result in you going to jail, but in most cases, if they are having you do roadside tests, they will be taking you to jail anyway. You may think that if you're not over the limit, there is no reason to refuse these tests. However, these tests are not anywhere near 100% accurate, and even a completely sober driver may “fail” the field sobriety tests.
There are three primary standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs), the one-leg-stand test; the walk-and-turn test; and the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. Of the three tests, the HGN is allegedly the most accurate. However, these tests are useless when the police officer doesn't give complete and proper instructions and doesn't correctly observe and grade the test results. This happens more than you might realize, and is another reason you may want to refuse performing SFSTs.
The problem is that the police may perform the HGN test without you realizing that you are being tested. If the police shine a light in your eye and ask you to follow their finger, or a pen light with your eyes, they are looking for your eyes to exhibit a jerking motion related to being intoxicated. If you follow the police officer's instructions to follow an object with your eyes, then you are likely performing the the HGN test.
Like the SFSTs, a field breathalyzer is not mandatory. There are no penalties associated with refusing a breath test at the side of the road. It is up to you whether you want to submit to a breath test. If you know your blood alcohol level is well below the legal limit, you may want to submit to the test in the hopes that the officer will just let you go. However, even if you show 0.0% BAC, the police may suspect you are under the influence of drugs, even prescription drugs, and place you under arrest anyway.
Before you agree to a breath test, understand that they are not always accurate. It is possible for a breathalyzer to show a BAC level, even if you did not drink any alcohol.
Atlanta DUI Lawyer
You may think that by being candid about drinking alcohol with the police, they will go easy on you. But if the police think you are intoxicated or if you test over the legal limit, you will most likely end up arrested on suspicion of a DUI. However, an arrest is not the same as a conviction. You have a chance to fight your DUI charges, to get them reduced or dismissed.
If you were arrested for a DUI in the metro Atlanta area, you still have a chance to have your charges reduced or dismissed, and keep your license to drive. No matter what you said to the police before they arrested you, you have legal defenses available that may give you a chance to keep your record clean. Call me today so we can talk about what happened when you were arrested, and I will defend your rights in court.