Unfortunately, a lot of people's ideas about how the cops are supposed to behave comes from TV shows and unreliable stories. After a DUI arrest, you may be wondering if the police unconstitutionally violated your rights. Police officers make mistakes all the time, just like any of us. But when a police officer messes up and doesn't do things by the book, they could be violating your rights and not giving you a fair chance to plead your case.
What if the police officer didn't read me my Miranda rights? What if they didn't tell me why they pulled me over? What if the officer didn't care about my bad back when I failed the field sobriety tests? These are the kinds of questions some drivers have after a DUI, when things didn't seem right, and you shouldn't have been arrested. Each case is different, so you should ask your Atlanta DUI lawyer these questions and they will let you know whether you have a good chance to get your case dismissed.
Understanding how police officers make mistakes, and when they are likely to make them is something Atlanta DUI lawyers are familiar with. Before you decide on your DUI lawyer, feel free to call them up and ask them some important questions to make sure they have had similar training to the police in field sobriety testing and breathalyzer devices. This can really help when finding out exactly how the procedures are supposed to, and when the cop didn't do things properly.
Common Police Officer DUI Mistakes
Unjustified Traffic Stop: Although you may think the police officer wasn't necessarily giving you the true answer for why they pull you over, they do need a reason. They can't stop a driver just because they don't like their look, the way they are dressed, or their race. They have to have reasonable suspicion of some crime or traffic violation, including articulable facts to justify a traffic stop.
Granted, they don't need a lot to stop most drivers. Every day there are people driving around with equipment violations like a burnt out tail light, or a partially covered license plate. We've all seen drivers every day who roll through stop signs, or go over the speed limit. Any of these may be enough for a police officer to justify a traffic stop. But when they don't have a reason, you may have a chance to have your charges dismissed.
Extended Traffic Stop: Police cannot extend the duration of a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion. Some police officers may try this tactic to look for additional crimes, but without a basis for reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, they have to let you go. This can occur in a DUI case where the police may think the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but they don't have any clear signs of intoxication. They may delay the driver to find out more, or look around for signs of drugs or alcohol, or bring out sniffer dogs. If the police delay a person without cause, they may have gone beyond the mission of the traffic stop, which may give a basis for a motion to suppress evidence.
Field Sobriety Tests: Field sobriety tests are used by the police to help determine whether a driver is impaired. The problem is that these tests are not so accurate. Just as sober people can fail field sobriety tests, drunk people can pass them. This is one reason that you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, since many see these tests as designed to make you fail.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed rules and guidelines for standardized field sobriety tests including the eye test, walk-and-turn test, and one-leg stand test. Just because DUI police officers have been trained in how to conduct these field sobriety tests does not mean that they do them the right way in the field.
During the eye test, police are supposed to take into account the angle of a pen light, the angle of the eye, and any other factor which might affect how an eye moves to indicate impairment. Any mistake in the eye test could falsely indicate impairment. Additionally, a number of medications can register a failed test, including medications to treat seizures, anxiety, bipolar disorder and mood swings.
The same things can happen with the other field sobriety tests. If the police don't appropriately consider medical conditions, back pain, leg pain and the effects of medication. The road condition, flashing lights, speeding cars, darkness, and nervousness about a police confrontation can all affect field sobriety tests, regardless of alcohol consumption. As another example, if the police let the one-leg-stand test go on too long because they aren't counting properly, lots of people would eventually get tired and drop their leg, which counts as a fail.
Implied Consent Laws: After the police arrest you on suspicion of driving under the influence, they are supposed to inform you of the implied consent law before you submit to a chemical test, such as a breath or blood test. The notice is supposed to be read in its entirety, so long as the substance of the notice is unchanged. The warning goes like this:
“Georgia law requires you to submit to state administered chemical tests of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances for the purpose of determining if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse this testing, your Georgia driver's license or privilege to drive on the highways of this state will be suspended for a minimum period of one year. Your refusal to submit to the required testing may be offered into evidence against you at trial. If you submit to testing and the results indicate an alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or more, your Georgia driver's license or privilege to drive on the highways of this state may be suspended for a minimum period of one year. After first submitting to the required state tests, you are entitled to additional chemical tests of your blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances at your own expense and from qualified personnel of your own choosing. Will you submit to the state administered chemical tests of your (breath, blood or urine test) under the implied consent law?”
If the officer forgets to give the full warning, if they only read part of it, or if they leave out important parts, you may not have given informed consent to a chemical test.
Blood and Breath Tests: The most common tests in Atlanta DUIs are the blood and breath chemical tests. This is another area where police officers can mess up, and possibly compromise your rights. There are specific procedures in place that police are supposed to follow to ensure a more accurate chemical test. This includes proper and complete observation of the test subject for the required period of time, and the regular and proper maintenance and calibration of the machine. If the breath or blood test isn't performed according to the regulations, it may compromise the reliability of the test results, and you could test over the legal limit.
Have do you know when the officer made a mistake?
Finding out how, where and when a police officer may have made a mistake that violated your rights can be complicated. This is where having experience and training as an Atlanta DUI lawyer can really be helpful. If your DUI lawyer is trained in field sobriety tests, and educated on chemical breath testing, they will be familiar with the rules on how things are supposed to go, and can identify errors or inconsistencies in an officer's police report, testimony, and video evidence.
I have been NHTSA certified in DUI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, just like the Georgia State Patrol, and Atlanta police officers undergo. I understand the purpose of these tests, where they can go wrong, and the instructions the police are supposed to give you.
DUI Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested for a DUI anywhere in the Atlanta Metro Area, be sure your lawyer has the experience, training, and dedication to be your advocate. Lawson and Berry has successfully represented hundreds of people facing a DUI charge by challenging the evidence put forward by the state. You can contact us anytime to ask us any questions about the mistakes made in your case.