Types of Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
In Georgia, there are several ways in which a person may be charged and convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). While alcohol intoxication is the one most people run afoul of, there are a few other ways to get in trouble. Once may not drive under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive. That means even if a person has a prescription for a medication that is otherwise legal for them to take, if taking that medicine impairs them, even a little bit, they should not operate a motor vehicle. Doing so means they can be charged and convicted of a DUI.
After alcohol intoxication, probably the next most common way a person can be charged and convicted of a DUI in Georgia is having any amount of marijuana in the person's blood and/or urine, including metabolites and derivatives of marijuana. This means that even if a person last smoked or otherwise ingested marijuana weeks before they were stopped and arrested for driving, if marijuana or metabolites of marijuana are found in their system, they can be convicted of a DUI. It remains to be seen how a person who smoked legally in another state, or used low THC oil in Georgia legally, will be treated by both law enforcement and our courts.
Two Types of DUI Alcohol
If a person is charged with driving impaired due to alcohol, there are two ways that can be alleged and prosecuted. One is simply because the person have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of over 0.08 mg / ml as measured by a sample of their breath, blood, urine or other bodily substance. This is called a DUI Per Se sometimes, and the important point is that it doesn't matter if the alcohol had no effect on the person driving. If they were otherwise legally stopped, and if the officer and subsequent investigation was done properly, have a 0.08 BAC or above is a DUI period. But, whether everything was in fact done properly is where a skilled DUI attorney can help.
The other way a person can be charged and convicted of an alcohol-based DUI is when any amount of alcohol impairs their driving. Thus, a person who drinks only a thimble full of wine but then suffers impairment because of that wine can be DUI even if their BAC was below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. But, to prove this, the State should be able to show evidence of impaired driving through credible evidence – video, witness testimony, and properly performed Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). Where the video is ambiguous, witness testimony shaky, and the FSTs given by the officer improperly, a solid defense may be built.
Defenses to a DUI Arrest
Indeed, there are many ways to challenge the legal and factual validity of a DUI arrest so as to avoid a DUI conviction. First, the officer may have not had a valid reason to stop a person. Officers alleging that a tag was invalid or improperly displayed, allegations of failure to use a turn signal, and allegations of failure to maintain lane, are just a few of the ways we've successfully thwarted a DUI arrest from becoming a conviction. Whether the officer had a legally valid reason is called reasonable articulable suspicion. Read just some of the great results we got our clients here.
Second, even if the officer had a good reason to stop a driver, or if the driver was already stopped, the State has the burden of proving that a person was in fact DUI. Officers – like lawyers – vary widely in their skill at handling DUI investigations. Too often we see young, inexperienced officers, or sometimes older officers as well, give poor instructions to motorists when asking the person they've stopped to perform FSTs. And, what is a poor performance on an FST, though supposedly objective, can be in the eye of the beholder. Also, just because a person had a BAC over 0.08 percent does not mean the officer handled the taking of the blood, breath or urine properly, or that proper procedures were following by others who may have been involved.
To summarize, DUI Law is complex. It is as complex a sub-specialty of criminal and traffic law as one can find. From the legalities of the traffic stop and encounter with the police, to the chemistry of breath and blood and how those substances are properly analyzed, one should not simply plead guilty to the charge of DUI. As the penalties even for a first ever lifetime DUI are severe, and the negative consequences to one's career may be long-lasting or permanent, it is crucial to have skilled representation on your side. This does not mean having a jack-of-all-trades dabbler who does some of every kind of law. It means someone who knows what they're doing, and will work well for and with you. If you (or someone you know) is facing a DUI charge, we will provide a free consultation so that you can make an informed decision as to whether we're the right law firm for you. Call us at 678-DUI-HELP (678-384-4357), or email us at [email protected].