As a Georgia DUI Lawyer, I am very familiar with how routine traffic stops work in the state of Georgia. Most people have no idea just how much discretion and power officers have regarding traffic stops.
A lot of the questions that I answer from clients and prospective clients concerns privacy rights and what the police can and cannot do by law. Recently, a driver was pulled over in Clayton County for “driving erratically.” This routine traffic stop led to the search of the man's person and vehicle. Officers then determined that he was the suspect in a murder case in Fulton County which led to his arrest.
In today's post, I will outline the different legal aspects that govern what can result from what seems to be a stop for a minor traffic violation.
Routine Traffic Stops in Georgia
If you have been arrested for DUI in Georgia, you probably were given other traffic offenses or other related charges. For instance, getting pulled over for speeding or failure to maintain lane is generally what leads to a DUI investigation.
By law, a person can be stopped and briefly detained by a police officer based on a reasonable suspicion of involvement in a punishable crime. If the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is armed and/or dangerous, the officer may perform a search of the person's outer garments for weapons. Again - this is completely legal and within an officer's authority if he or she has reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause for such actions.
Reasonable articulable suspicion and probable cause are guiding concepts that limit the power a police officer has to invade your privacy; to stop you in your vehicle, to look into your trunk, etc. Without this the police would be free to stop anyone or everyone, randomly searching for real or imagined contraband.
There is no question that law enforcement officers have the powers of search and seizure. The investigation of crimes would be impossible without them. The ability of a police officer to enter into an alleged crime scene or any place where evidence of a crime may be found, and then remove evidence from the location or even the person is essential to law enforcement in general.
But these powers are limited in scope by the United States Constitution, State Constitutions, the Constitution of Georgia, and case law. In fact, while the powers of search and seizure are in and of themselves great, the restrictions placed upon them by various laws and legal opinions are in many cases greater and limit those powers to protect the individual and his or her freedoms quite effectively.
If you or a loved one has been arrested in the state of Georgia, contact our offices today. We can help you with your case and determine if your arrest was lawful and that the officers acted within their lawful powers.