Georgia DUI FAQ
Driving under the influence (DUI), operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), or driving while intoxicated (DWI) are all ways to describe the same thing: intoxicated driving. Intoxication may be the result of alcohol or another chemical substance (e.g., marijuana) or both. Everyone who is arrested for DUI in Georgia is arrested for what is called DUI Less Safe, which means that, in the officer's opinion, you were under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both to the extent your driving was affected. There is a separate DUI charge called DUI Per Se, which means that the results of state-administered chemical testing (blood, breath, or urine) showed you to have a blood alcohol content above the legal limit of 0.08 within three (3) hours of driving.
In Georgia, there are many arrests made daily for DUI. Those arrested are often people like you and me: law-abiding citizens. At Owens Law, P.C., we work hard to help you beat a DUI charge or, at a minimum, get the best possible outcome in your unique situation. Contact us at 678.661.1DUI to learn more about how we can help you. In the meantime, here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from our clients when we first meet them about their DUI charges.
What are my rights during DUI traffic stops?
If you are pulled over due to suspicion of intoxicated driving or pulled over for a traffic stop and the police officer suspects intoxicated driving, you should remember you have certain rights.
- The driver and any passengers have the right to remain silent (except you must show the police your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request); and
- If you are a passenger, you are free to leave under most circumstances if you do not pose a threat to the officer or your physical safety.
If you are arrested or detained, you have additional rights, including Miranda warnings before you are questioned in custody.
- You can say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.
- You have the right to refuse any standardized field sobriety evaluations (the "eye test" or HGN, walk and turn, one leg stand, and portable breath test) and state-administered testing.
If you believe your rights were violated in any way, try to write down everything you remember, including the police officer's agency (state police, county police, etc.), badge number, and patrol car number.
What are standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs)?
Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are allegedly designed to help police determine whether a driver is intoxicated by alcohol or not. They are not validated to show intoxication by drugs.
There are three standardized FSTs:
- the "eye test" or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test);
- the Walk-and-Turn Test; and
- the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS test)
Non-standardized FSTs may include:
- finger-to-nose test
- the finger count test
- the hand pat test
- the alphabet test
- the reverse counting test
- the coin pickup test
Can I refuse field sobriety tests in Georgia?
Yes. You have a constitutional right to refuse all field sobriety tests in Georgia, even though the officer may not make it seem so. Your refusal of field sobriety tests generally cannot be used against you in court.
Can I refuse a portable breath test (PBT) in Georgia?
Yes. You have a constitutional right to refuse a portable breathalyzer test. These are portable instruments police have with them to test your breath for the presence of alcohol during the traffic stop and before your arrest. The results of these tests are typically not admissible if you are, in fact, arrested and charged with DUI. The officer will only be able to testify that you were positive or negative for alcohol. And your refusal of a PBT generally cannot be used against you in court.
Can I refuse a breath, blood, or urine test in Georgia?
Yes. You can refuse to submit to a breath, urine test, or blood test. Your refusal of a breath or urine test generally cannot be used against you in court. If the officer chooses to, he or she can obtain a search warrant for your blood if they can prove to a judge they had probable cause to arrest you for DUI.
What is a “blood alcohol content” level?
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol found in the blood expressed as a percentage. It is calculated in grams per 210 liters of breath, and a BAC of 0.08 means there is 0.08% alcohol by volume. Measuring BAC is a way for law enforcement to calculate the amount of alcohol someone has had and their ability to drive a motor vehicle.
After a DUI arrest in Georgia, will my driver's license be suspended or revoked?
There are two different types of suspensions. The first is an administrative license suspension (ALS), whereby your license is suspended if you refuse state-administered chemical testing or have a BAC over 0.08. This means you can lose your driving privileges even when you have not been found guilty of anything. You only have thirty (30) days from your arrest to stop this suspension! Contact us at 678.661.1DUI as soon as possible so we can protect your ability to drive!
The other type of suspension occurs when you are convicted of DUI in Georgia. Whether your driver's license will be suspended or revoked and for how long depends on whether this is your first offense in the last five (5) years.
If my driver's license is suspended in Georgia, can I obtain a limited permit to get to work?
Whether you are eligible for a limited permit (or work permit) under either suspension depends on whether you have a Georgia driver's license, whether this is your first suspension in the last five (5) years and whether you submitted to state-administered testing after your arrest. Contact us at 678.661.1DUI to learn more about how we can help you.
What happens after a DUI arrest in Georgia?
If you are arrested for DUI, what happens next depends on the facts and circumstances. It's important to know that two (2) things happen after DUI arrests: (1) the officer begins the administrative license suspension process; and (2) the criminal process, which can result in a conviction in the absence of a strong DUI defense. A conviction can lead to jail, fines, driver's license suspension/revocation, ignition interlock device (IID) installation, and other penalties.
Can I beat a DUI charge in Georgia?
Yes! It is possible to beat a DUI charge, although it is not typically an easy process. Winning will require a thorough understanding of the law and a thorough understanding of the technical nature and limitations of field sobriety tests, breath tests, blood tests, and urine tests. Understanding the latter tests is critical to identifying errors (technical or human-made errors) to highlight the unreliability of the results.
Aside from errors or unreliable test results, an alleged DUI offender may have had their constitutional rights violated. This happens more often than you might imagine. A violation can lead to the inadmissibility of some or all evidence. Without sufficient evidence, the case will be dismissed, or a jury may return with an acquittal.
DUI cases are highly technical and legally complex and the law is constantly changing. You will need a skilled and experienced DUI defense attorney to give yourself the best opportunity to win your case. Contact us at 678.661.1DUI to learn more about how we can help you.
Can I just plead guilty to DUI?
You can plead guilty, but the real question is should you? It would be a mistake to plead guilty without having the counsel of a skilled DUI defense attorney, and there are multiple reasons for this.
- DUI is a criminal offense in Georgia, and a DUI conviction is very difficult, if not impossible, to have expunged from your criminal history.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you lose any opportunity to investigate and fight the DUI charge.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you also lose any opportunity to negotiate a plea deal, if that is what would be best in your unique circumstances. Admittedly, a plea deal means you would plead guilty to something, but the process often renders a better outcome than an immediate plea of guilty.
If this is your first DUI arrest, it can be tempting to plead guilty right away so that you can get the case over faster and get on with your life. But if you do not fight to get the charge dismissed or to get yourself acquitted, you will end up with a DUI conviction on your record, and any subsequent DUI arrest will carry harsher potential penalties.
Do I need a DUI lawyer in Georgia to win my DUI case?
If you plan to fight your DUI charges, it is absolutely in your best interest to have a skilled and experienced DUI defense attorney represent you. The law is complex and the evidence is highly technical and scientific. Police and state expert testimony will be damaging and biased toward validating the officer's arrest decision. All these things will lead to a conviction unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully counter them.
At Owens Law, P.C., we know the law and the technical and scientific details and limitations of field sobriety tests, blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests. We also know how to identify and proactively address any constitutional rights violations to benefit your case. Contact us today at 678.661.1DUI to schedule a free consultation and get honest advice on your best legal options.