What Happens When Someone Is Stopped For A DUI In Georgia?
Most people are initially stopped as a result of committing a minor traffic violation such as speeding or weaving, and the officer will then detect the odor of alcohol or other signs of impairment, such as red eyes, fine motor impairment, or slurred speech when personal contact is made with the driver. In other cases, an officer will detect the presence of alcohol or an intoxicated individual at the scene of an automobile accident. The officer will typically ask the suspect whether or not they have been drinking, where they are coming from, and where they are going. Once an officer requests the person to step out of their vehicle, the procedures will vary. The typical DUI stop might include a portable breath test with an approved initial alcohol screening device from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The numeric result from such tests are not admissible in court, but the ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ result from such tests are admissible in court. The reason the numerical value is not admissible in court is because the device does not distinguish between mouth alcohol and alcohol that comes from the lungs, which is how the most accurate breath alcohol results correlating with alcohol blood are determined.
If someone is over the legal limit for alcohol, the officer will likely have the individual perform one or all of the three standardized field sobriety tests from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are referred to as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the nine-step walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg-stand test. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test involves the officer moving a stimulus such as a pen or finger in front of a person’s eyes at a designated speed for a designated amount of time in order to see if their eyes jerk. The officer will do this twice for each pass for each eye, which means there is a total of six possible clues or chances for the officer to observe jerking of the eyes. According to the NHTSA field studies, a person who shows four out of six clues has a roughly 77 percent chance of being 0.08 grams or great or legally DUI. This, however, does not necessarily indicate whether the individual is impaired from alcohol or less safe.
The nine-step walk-and-turn test is a divided attention test that measures a person’s ability to follow instructions and perform a physical task, although the police do not inform suspects that their ability to follow instructions is being measured much like a game of “Simon says.” If a suspect exhibits two of eight possible clues, then according to the NHTSA field studies, they probably have or there is a 63% chance have a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit of 0.08. For this test, there are two clues in the non-moving phase. One clue is that the person starts too soon and the second clue is that they could not maintain balance, which simply means that they broke the instructional stance of putting their right foot in front of their left foot and keeping their hands by their side during the explanation of the test. Again the person being tested is not informed that these are two of the possible clues. There are six possible clues during the movement phase, including stepping off the line, failing to touch the heel to the toe, raising their arms, walking without stopping, improper turn and taking fewer or greater than nine steps.
The officer will also consider the totality of the circumstances of how someone performs on physical dexterity tests, which can be used as the probable cause to arrest someone for DUI. For example, if the suspect is staggering, stumbling, or otherwise showing signs of impairment during the test, the officer could use those observations as probable cause to conduct an arrest for DUI. If they choose to, they can bring the suspect to a police station, hospital, or other location for a blood or breath test. In some cases, the authorities will have a scheduled bond for the defendant, and in other cases the defendant will have to appear before a judge prior to getting a bond which can take anywhere from overnight to several days.
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