Fighting The Initial Stop
The four phases of a DUI investigation are: 1) vehicle in motion, 2) personal contact, 3) pre-arrest screening, and 4) post-arrest testing. Each phase may not be present in every case but understanding all the different phases will help you understand what a complete investigation would have looked like and compare it to the investigation in your case.
To understand why this vehicle in motion phase is so important, we must first understand that driving is a series of actions and reactions. Every time you get behind the wheel, there will be different stimuli which demand your attention and appropriate responses to them to safely operate your vehicle. So, when the officer says you were a less safe driver, they are saying your impairment caused slower reactions to these stimuli. They are saying you were more distracted or inattentive than you would have been sober. Basically, your ability to safely operate your vehicle was hindered by your impairment.
However, sober people commit driving infractions all the time. I suspect that most people commit multiple driving violations every time they get behind the wheel. As we know, some people are just bad drivers. No matter how good of a driver you are, accidents still happen. So, a driving infraction does not equal impairment. Yet, if you are being charged with having impaired driving ability, your actual driving is the best gauge of your ability to drive safely, right? So, we always hope for good driving in a DUI case, but we have arguments and explanations prepared for times when the driving does not bode well for us.
Now, back to what an officer is looking for during phase one, vehicle in motion. The officer is observing vehicles and looking for driving violations, such as speeding or failure to maintain lane, or other non-moving violations, such as expired tag or window tint violations. The officer can pull over a vehicle based on a reasonable suspicion of any of these violations. Once the officer observes a violation, they can activate their blue lights and siren to initiate the traffic stop. This stopping process is an important indicator of impairment. Once the additional stimuli of blue lights and a siren are brought into the equation, how does the driver react? Does the driver use their blinker, safely change lanes and safely bring the vehicle to a stop? An impaired driver would typically exhibit one or more issues during the stopping process due to the increased stress caused by the new stimuli. A clean stopping process can counteract a bad driving violation. If there is no video of the stop, then you must first lock the officer into what they said in their report. Then, you point out that there is no mention of any issues during the stopping process. If there had been, they would have mentioned it in their report. Officers do not put positive information in their report, so you can assume that the lack of information about the stopping process means there were no issues.
There are also situations where there would be no vehicle in motion investigation at all. This would be a situation like a roadblock or traffic accident in which the vehicle is already stopped when the officer arrives. If you happen to be parked on the side of the road, the officer could also perform a wellness check on you without any other reason to approach your vehicle. So, while it is commendable to do the right thing and pull over if you realize you are too impaired, you still might be setting yourself up for an encounter with law enforcement.
For more information on DUI Defense and Fighting the Initial Stop in Georgia, call or text (470) 728-1725 to speak with attorney Carl Chapman.