Posted by Jim Yeargan in Jim's Blog on August 10, 2018
There must be probable cause, or in other words, reasonable suspicion of a crime, in order for a Georgia police officer to pull you over. A broken headlight is a violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-8-20, and therefore, that is all that would have to be present for an officer of the law to make a traffic stop.
In fact, many headlight infractions lead to further violations, citations, and even arrests, once the officer has performed an investigation of the driver. If you were arrested in a routine headlight stop, you should consult with an Atlanta criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Georgia Headlight Law
Georgia’s headlight law specifically states that all vehicles that are driving upon a highway a half-hour after sunset until a half-hour before sunrise must be have their headlights on. Headlights must also be turned on if it is raining or when visibility is less than 500 feet.
The only exception to this rule is a parked vehicle, however, it would be a good idea to have warning lights or at least your headlights on if you are parked on the side of the road. A “highway,” as stated in the law, might not be what you are picturing in your mind.
As it pertains to laws, a highway is actually any public road, street, turnpike, or canal which people have the right to access publicly in their vehicles. This can also include alleys, so do not let the language of the law confuse you.
It is also important to understand that even if you are not driving within the hours stated in the headlight law, you can still get pulled over if you are driving with only one headlight on because O.C.G.A. § 40-8-20 states that your vehicle must be equipped with at least two headlights. If you are driving during the daytime hours and one headlight is not functioning properly, a police officer can still pull you over.
One final concept you should be aware of is automatic headlights. This is especially true in cars that you are not familiar with, including rental cars. Do not rely on your automatic headlights to work at the hours specified in the law. It is best to get into the habit of turning your headlights on during the required hours to ensure that you do not get pulled over unnecessarily.
Broken Headlight Leads to Drug Arrest
As a quick example of what could happen, in May 2018, driver Preston Pernell Fields of Douglas was pulled over by police officers for a minor headlight infraction around 9 p.m. When the officers found cocaine and marijuana in his car, they called the Douglas-Coffee Drug Unit, which were able to discover more than three ounces of marijuana, seven grams of cocaine, and several tablets of ecstasy.
The driver was arrested and charged with possession of drugs with the intention to distribute, as well as driving without a license and no insurance, all from one minor headlight violation.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If a headlight infraction landed you in jail for other criminal charges, you should contact an aggressive Atlanta criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact Yeargan & Kert today at (404) 467-1747 for your free consultation today.