Know your rights if stopped for suspected DUI

When most people are pulled over for suspected drunk driving, they're frightened, nervous and likely intimidated by the law enforcement officer(s) who stopped them. If they have been drinking, even a little, their judgment may be impaired. Therefore, when officers ask them to comply with performing field sobriety tests, they generally do.

Unbeknownst to most Georgia drivers, however, our laws don't require drivers to submit to field sobriety tests. You may have your driver's license suspended for refusing to submit to a state administered test of your blood, breath or urine, but refusal in and of itself is not a crime.

These tests generally include walking a straight line, standing on one leg and following a pen light as well as a breath test. The Alco-sensor breath test and similar field breath tests are known to sometimes produce inaccurate results due to improper calibration or some type of malfunction. Therefore, many attorneys recommend that clients not submit to them.

It's important, however, that you decline the tests in a polite, respectful manner. Becoming confrontational with an officer is only going to make the situation worse and potentially lead to other charges. Remember that you're likely being recorded on a dash cam or body camera, so your behavior probably won't be a he said/she said situation.

An officer can still arrest you on suspicion of DUI even without a field sobriety test. If that happens, you'll likely encounter a test while you're in police custody called the Intoxilyzer. That's another breath-testing machine. Refusing to submit to that can have some legal ramifications.

Of course, the best way to avoid all of this is not to get behind the wheel after you've been drinking. You'll spend a lot less on an Uber than you will if you get caught driving under the influence, and everyone on the road, including you, will be safer. However, if you do find yourself in this situation, it's important to know what your rights are and to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.

Source: The Newman Times-Herald, "Field sobriety tests are voluntary," Dec. 08, 2016

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