Posted by Jim Yeargan in Jim's Blog on October 8, 2018
Atlanta law enforcement recently awarded more than $100,000 of Forsyth County taxpayers money after a lawsuit in which a driver was erroneously arrested for driving under the influence. In 2017, a law enforcement officer contacted 911 when he saw some teenagers behaving suspiciously in his neighborhood. While the teenagers were let go, one of the law enforcement officers who was involved reported smelling alcohol on another officer’s breath.
After the officer was the subject of a field sobriety test, other involved officers reporting having concerns about his results and arrested him. The officer later took a breathalyzer test, which revealed the results of .007. Weeks later, the officer’s charges were dropped and he was suspended without pay.
Since being awarded the amount of money, though, the officer’s sergeant has apologized to him and commented that the matter should have been handled differently. While it might seem hard to believe, law enforcement can and does make errors during DUI stops that can have a significant influence on the outcome of your case.
Fortunately, if law enforcement makes mistakes during a DUI stop, a seasoned attorney understands how to create a strong defense to make sure that charges are dismissed. Some of the most common mistakes that our law firm sees police officer performs include the following:
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion to Stop a Vehicle
Before law enforcement can stop a driver, the officer must have reasonable suspicion to perform this stop. Reasonable suspicion involves noticing specific things to suggest that a driver is violating the law. While the officer is not required to have reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence, the officer must have facts that support pulling you over.
While it is not common if the law enforcement officer states that you were stopped only due to a feeling the officer had, you likely have strong grounds on which to argue that the stop was unreasonable.
Lack of Probable Cause for an Arrest
To arrest a driver for driving under the influence, law enforcement must meet a standard that is higher than reasonable suspicion, called probable cause. The standard of probable cause means that law enforcement has specific reasons to believe that you were driving under the influence as well as a strong suspicion that the driver is guilty of the offense.
If you exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refrain from providing the law enforcement officer with additional information, there are often few details on which to base a claim of probable cause.
Improperly Conducted Field Sobriety Tests
If a law enforcement officer believes that you are operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, there are three standardized tests that he or she will ask you to perform, including horizontal gaze nystagmus, a one-leg stand, and a walk and turn.
While each of these tests is designed to precisely monitor a driver’s coordination, these tests must be performed in a specific manner. Failure to conduct these tests accurately can lead to results that are inadmissible in a court of law.
Speak with an Experienced DUI Attorney Today
When facing DUI charges, it can be confusing and overwhelming to decide how to best proceed. Fortunately, an experienced DUI attorney understands how these changes are made and will remain committed to making sure that your case resolves in the best possible manner. Contact Yeargan & Kert LLC today to schedule a free consultation.