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Understanding the rights of Georgia drivers at DUI checkpoints

Drivers in Georgia may be asked to answer questions and perform tests at DUI checkpoints, which could result in DUI charges.

People in Marietta, and throughout Georgia, often drink alcoholic beverages with meals, at social gatherings or to just unwind at the end of a long day. This is generally not an issue for those who are of legal drinking age. Though, for drivers, consuming alcohol may result in serious legal issues.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than one million people were arrested on DUI charges in 2013 alone. Not all of these arrests are clear-cut cases, however. Some of these arrests were made at DUI checkpoints. In order to protect themselves from unwarranted arrests at such stops, it behooves people to understand their rights at DUI checkpoints.

Answering questions

At the majority of DUI checkpoints, the first thing that law enforcement officers do is approach the stopped vehicles to question the drivers. It is common for people to feel obligated to respond to these questions, however, that is not the case. In fact, the National Motorists Association indicates that drivers have the right to politely refuse to answer any questions.

Instead of answering questions, drivers at DUI checkpoints may choose to present authorities with a card stating they want to exercise their constitutional rights. This includes refusing to speak until after they have consulted with a legal representative and being allowed to go on their way unless they are being arrested.

Roadside tests

When law enforcement officers at a checkpoint suspect motorists of drunk driving, they may ask them to perform field sobriety tests. These potentially incriminating roadside tests, which may include the walk and turn, horizontal gaze nystagmus and the one-leg stand, are not typically used to prove a driver should be allowed to go on his or her way.

Although law enforcement agents often fail to notify motorists when making the request, these tests are usually voluntary. This means that drivers can refuse to perform them. It is important for people to keep in mind, however, that refusing roadside tests will not necessarily prevent them from being arrested. Rather, authorities may just have a more difficult case to prove in court.

Chemical tests

Many people are confused about their rights with regards to chemical testing. In general, drivers are able to refuse preliminary breath tests. If a driver has not consumed any alcoholic beverages, however, then agreeing to these tests may be in their best interests.

Sometimes, law enforcement may have cause to arrest drivers even if they refuse preliminary breath tests. Once placed under arrest, drivers are required to submit to chemical tests, including blood, breath and urine tests, to determine their blood alcohol content levels. According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, refusing such testing may result in a suspended driver's license. These penalties are in addition to those associated with a potential DUI conviction.

Obtain legal representation

Being charged with drunk driving in Georgia is a serious offense, which may carry severe penalties. Therefore, those facing such charges may find it of benefit to seek legal counsel. Working with an attorney at David West & Associates may help them understand their rights, as well as their options for establishing a defense to the charges against them.