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Use of a Cell Phone While Driving and DUI Stops

You may not think about the United States Constitution much while you're out driving on the highway, but thanks to the 4th Amendment, the cops need a reason to pull you over (and start any type of investigation, including DUI and possession of any illegal items/substances). This is important, as we as Americans highly value our right to privacy.

However, if you are driving on the public roadways, it is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind the fact that a cop could basically pull you over at any time. While it's true that he or she does need a "reason" to stop you, the bar for this is pretty low. In fact, the Supreme Court recently ruled that if the police pull a motorist over under the mistaken belief that the motorist is breaking the law, it is still a valid vehicle stop.

If you are driving in the state of Georgia, one way a cop could be justified in pulling you over is if you are breaking a Georgia law that targets "distracted driving". This law prohibits a driver from operating a motor vehicle on roadways while using "a wireless communication device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data." That means, a cop could pull you over if it looks as though you may be using your phone or tablet to send a text/access other data-based functions.

Once a cop has a reason to pull you over, they can begin a secondary investigation (such as examining you for signs of DUI or other illegal activities). The ability of the police to be able to stop your vehicle based on a violation of no-texting-while-driving laws means that police have a much broader ability to investigate drivers. For example, if a police officer is going to pull a driver over for suspicion of DUI, the officer must have seen the driver do something that warranted the stop (such as swerving or failing to obey a traffic signal). However, a cop can stop a driver on suspicion of using a communication device improperly even if the driver is using the device while stopped at a red light. This means that you could be "pulled over" if you didn't even have the vehicle in motion.

Not only can you be pulled over while stopped, but many drivers may be surprised to learn that they aren't even legally allowed to use their phones for navigational purposes. Apps like Google maps are included in the Georgia law that prohibits the use of communication devices while driving. Devices that exclusively provide GPS navigation services, such as the car-window-mount models made by Tom Tom and Garmin are excluded from distracted driving laws; you can not be pulled over by a police officer for using one of these devices.

The laws prohibiting the use of communication devices were made with good intentions: to keep distracted drivers off of public roadways, making them safer for the general public. However, one consequence of such laws is giving police officers more reasons to pull over / investigate drivers. If you have been charged with DUI after getting pulled over, give Lawson and Berry a call. Remember: just because you were charged does not mean that you will be convicted. An experienced defense attorney knows that even when a driver submitted to a blood, breath, or urine test, many legal strategies can be used to help fight these charges.

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If you have been arrested for DUI, or are have already started the legal process, give us a call now. Our line is answered 24 hours a day. Begin implementing the best possible legal defense strategy today.

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