Savannah Defense – Defense Attorney Blog

Information regarding criminal defense cases in Savannah Georgia.

Savannah DUI Attorney

D.U.I. and Associated Offenses.

Did you know that some first DUI convictions can suspend your driver’s license for one year without any hardship permit?  That’s right.  If you refuse the officer’s request for either a breath or blood test, you license is gone for one year.  However, there are ways to prevent the year suspension from happening.  That’s what an attorney can help you with.

Administrative License Suspension Hearing

Did you know that if you do not send a letter asking for an appeal to the Department of Driver Services within ten days of most DUI arrest, your license is suspended automatically?  A lawyer can make sure the correct language is used in the Administrative License Suspension letter.  Also, for the last three years the Department of Driver Services now requires a filing fee of $150.00 or you don’t get your hearing.  You get a suspension.  It used to cost nothing to file an appeal.

Evaluating a DUI Case

How does an expert DUI lawyer evaluate each case?

One, did the officer have a legal reason to stop you, or did the officer just pull you over because you were driving at 3:00 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday morning?  If the officer did not have a legitimate reason to stop you, there’s a good chance that all the evidence will be thrown out after a motion to suppress, and there will be nothing left to prosecute.  That’s right, the state will have to dismiss.

What are legitimate reasons for an officer to legally stop you?  If the officer witnesses you commit a traffic violation like speeding, running a traffic control device, defective equipment like a tag light being out, failure to dim headlights, etc.  Did you know that failure to use your turn signal may not be a legitimate basis to stop if there was no other traffic to signal to?

What if the officer does have a legitimate reason to pull you over?  Or, the officer may have a reason to be near you because you were in a wreck and the officer responded to the scene.

Two,“did the officer have probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or alcohol and drugs to the extent you were a less safe driver?”  It is not against the law to drink alcohol and drive, so long as you are deemed safe to drive.  The odor of alcohol alone is insufficient probable cause to arrest someone for DUI.  The odor of alcohol and nervousness is insufficient probable cause to arrest. If that’s all the officer has, then the attorney files a motion to suppress the evidence because there was insufficient evidence.  Without evidence, there is no case.

What if the officer does establish probable cause by noting some of the following observations in his/her report: Odor of alcohol, unsteady on his/her feet, red eyes, blood shot eyes, slurred speech, lack of balance, belligerent, etc.  A combination of some of these observations will establish probable cause for the arrest.

How about those field sobriety tests that the officer asked you to take?  Never take them even if you are stone cold sober.  They are failure designed for everyone whether drunk or sober.  These tests are voluntary, meaning you refuse them, nothing negative will happen.  Of course the officer will never tell you they are voluntary.  Typically the field sobriety tests are four standardized test, which are as follows: One, follow the officer’s finger or pen with your eyes.  Two, walk nine steps in a straight line heel-to-toe, then pivot and walk back the same way.  Three, stand on one foot with your other foot lifted 6 inches off the ground without moving or swaying and counting one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.

Why are field sobriety test unreliable and unfair.  They are unreliable because many officers don’t know the proper way to instruct them, or to evaluate the results.  They are unfair because a 70 year old obese person is evaluated exactly the same way as a 22 year old gymnast.  I cannot emphasize it enough. NEVER take the field sobriety test.

Three, did the officer expand the scope of the original basis for the stop thereby resulting in a violation of the 4th Amendment against unreasonable searches and/ seizure?  If an officer stops you for a seatbelt violation and then starts interrogating you about things that have nothing to do with the reason he/she stopped you, the officer has impermissibly expanded the basis for the stop.  The officer has detained you for a period of time longer than is necessary and has unlawfully seized you.  If the court agrees, the evidence of the DUI can be thrown out, and there is nothing left to prosecute with.

However, if that officer develops fresh or new probable cause that another crime is being committed other than failure to wear your seat belt, the officer may detain you and continue investigating a possible different offense.  That’s why if the officer smells an odor of an alcoholic beverage from the driver, plus sees other signs of intoxication, he/she may shift the investigation to a DUI investigation.  Odor of alcohol, glassy eyes and slurred speech would allow the officer to start investigating a possible impaired driver.

Four, if the first three questions are not answered in your favor, and the officer arrested you, did the officer read from an orange card the Georgia Implied Consent Warning AT THE TIME OF ARREST?  Because driving has been deemed to be a privilege and not a right, any state can condition your ability to retain a license.  Georgia law says if you blow .08 or higher, a plea of guilty or a conviction will result in a license suspension.  Georgia law says if you refuse the state’s test, your license is suspended for one year with no hardship permit.

Unless something horrible or strange happens, like you are unconscious after a car wreck, or you start fighting with the officer, the officer must read the implied consent warning AT THE TIME OF ARREST.  If he/she forgets, and doesn’t read it to you until 30 minutes later when you’re at the police station, the test results or the refusal can be suppressed and not allowed into evidence.

Should I take the State’s test?  If it’s your first arrest and you really believe you’re below the limit, yes.  Otherwise you are in danger of losing your license. Part of the implied consent warning allows you to take a test by a person of your own choosing once you’ve taken the state’s test.  If the result of the state’s test is .07, .08, .09, .10, then ask the officer to take you somewhere that you can have blood drawn.  The breath testing machine is calibrated to reflect a slightly higher result than a blood test, which everyone believes is the most accurate of all test.   But be prepared to pay for the test.  If you’ve been taking illegal drugs or legal drugs that can impair driving ability, then don’t ask for a blood test.

If you just don’t know whether you’re over the limit or not, please do the following:  When the officer asks if you’ve been drinking, reply,” Officer, I respect that you’re trying to do your job, but I am not going to say or do anything until I’ve spoken with a lawyer.”  Don’t answer his/her questions about whether you’ve been drinking.  Don’t take the field sobriety tests under any circumstances, and refuse the state’s test if you believe you are over the limit.

Associated Offenses

Open Container.  Don’t drive around with an open container of an alcoholic beverage.  While the penalties are mild for this offense, it gives the officer a reason to change the focus of his/her investigation from Open Container to DUI.

Marijuana Possession.  It is nearly impossible to mask the smell of marijuana.  Cops always smell it.   It allows them to expand their traffic stop investigation into a drug investigation and a DUI of drugs investigation.  You can be arrested and convicted of DUI just because you had enough marijuana in your system to make it less safe for you to drive.

Tips

Don’t drink and drive if you believe you are impaired.  If you believe you are impaired, make other arrangements to get home.  A cab ride may seem expensive at the time, but believe me, in the long run, it is a mere pittance compared to the costs associated with DUI. Make sure all your vehicle’s equipment is working, including the tag light, brake lights, head lights, etc.  Don’t violate the traffic laws, e.g. don’t speed, use your turn signal, pay attention to your driving and don’t swerve.  Most officers who see someone swerve their vehicle at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning will simply suspect the person is on their cell phone, changing the radio dial or maybe lost.  If the same officer sees a driver swerve his/her vehicle at 3:00 Saturday of Sunday morning, that officer will assume it is due to drunk driving.

IF YOU DON’T TAKE ANY OF THIS ADVICE, THEN CALL ME.  WE WILL DO EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO GET THROUGH THIS WITH AS LITTLE PAIN AS POSSIBLE.

Comments are closed