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Stopped for DUI. Forced to Wait for Legal Help

No one plans to be investigated for DUI.  You can find yourself being investigated for a number of reasons.  If it happens, you will be faced with a number of decision points where what you do can have a long-lasting effect on your freedom and your criminal history.  These questions can require knowledge of the legal consequences of your actions to make the best choice under the particular circumstances.  Sounds like the perfect time to speak to a DUI lawyer about what you should do.  In Georgia and much of the United States of America, it's not going to happen unless the officer is willing to allow you to do so.  In other words, the person who is investigating you gets to decide whether you can have legal assistance in responding to his or her investigation.

What decisions will you be faced with?

Whether to answer the officer's questions at all

Part of the officer's investigation will be a report of how well you answered his questions and the manner in which you spoke when you answered his questions.  Speak carefully and select your words after consideration, the officer will say that your speech was slow, an indicator of impairment.  Speak softly, and you could be accused of mumbling, another indicator of impairment.  Have a speech impediment, and the officer will say that you were lisping, yet another indicator of impairment.  Disagree with him about any little point, that is being combative or argumentative.  Speak towards him, and the officer may detect an odor on your breath, whether of alcohol or marijuana or some perceived masking agent, like breath mints or mouth wash.  Respond to a question about alcohol consumed or medications taken and that information could be used to charge you with DUI.

On the other hand, failure to respond to the officer is unlikely to result in your not being charged, but it will make it harder for the officer to prove the case at trial.

Whether to submit to field sobriety tests

The answer is almost always no.  There are a variety of physical and medical conditions that many people have that make it difficult or impossible for them to successfully complete these evaluations.  This is if you even accept the premise that the tests are passable if the officer suspects impairment from other evidence.

Whether to submit to a roadside hand-held alcohol test

This is a voluntary test.  Unless you have no alcohol in your system, you should refuse such testing.  The numerical result is inadmissible in Georgia courts.  So, if you blow a 0.01, the officer will say the test was "positive" for alcohol.  Blow a .18 and the officer will say the same thing.  But do you know what you should do on the side of the road with no legal assistance.

Whether to submit to the state breath, blood or urine test

Depending upon history, class of license, age, involvement in an accident, state of licensure, there are many reasons why a person might take the tests or refuse the tests.  You don't know how those factors effect your decision on the side of the road, well, the court says you can ask your lawyer if you did the right thing after you are arrested and booked.

Whether to request an independent test

If you submit to the state test, you should always ask for an independent blood test.  However, on the side of the road, you may not know that and how it intersects with your decision on the state official test.

So what should one do if stopped for suspicion of DUI?

Say as little as possible.

Ask to be allowed to call an attorney.  The officer may say no, but, at least you have signaled your desire to have representation.

Have your documentation accessible and ready.

Be polite and cooperative but say no to field sobriety tests and handheld breath testing.

Say no to the state test if you have had a prior DUI in the last five years.

Say no to the state test if you are under 21 or have a commercial driver's license.

Say no to the Georgia state test if your license is from a state other than Georgia.

Say no to the state test if you have been involved in a wreck where someone may have been seriously injured or killed.

Say no to a state blood test if you may have illegal drugs in your system.

See a qualified DUI lawyer as soon as possible after you are arrested and booked and bond out of jail.

Black Law Offices is prepared to assist persons facing accusations of driving under the influence and other serious criminal and traffic offenses.

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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