If you have been arrested or charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Georgia, you may have been pulled over for "driving erratically" as a justification for the stop. Law enforcement officers are constitutionally required to have some reason to pull you over. While this reason can be almost anything that is considered a traffic infraction, often the phrase"erratic driving" is used to justify the stop.
If you have been pulled over by law enforcement and are now charged with a DUI, an experienced Georgia DUI attorney can defend your case and protect your rights.
What is Required Before Police Can Pull Me Over?
Georgia police are constitutionally required to have some reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that some violation of law or traffic offense occurred before they can initiate a traffic stop. Failure to follow these constitutional restrictions can invalidate the stop. A skilled defense lawyer can use a constitutional violation to invalidate the stop and dismiss your charges.
What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause is specifically mentioned in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Probable cause is required for an arrest or a search but is not required to initiate a simple traffic stop. Probable cause exists where an officer had knowledge based on circumstances and facts that is sufficient to form a belief that the person arrested committed a crime.
What is Reasonable Suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution but is required to justify a traffic stop because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Terry v. Ohio. This standard is lower than probable cause. An officer must have articulate facts that criminal activity is taking place.
What is Erratic Driving?
As mentioned before, a common reasonable suspicion Georgia officer's use to justify a traffic stop is "erratic driving." This can mean a lot of different things, including:
- Crossing the center or edge line markings on the road,
- Excessive weaving even when within the marked lanes,
- Failure to use traffic signals,
- Driving too slowly (ironically),
- Making turns too quickly or making an illegal turn (such as onto a one-way street the wrong way),
- Failure to stop at a stop sign,
- Running a red light,
- Following too closely,
- Driving into oncoming traffic.
Police officers are trained to look for these kinds of issues as a part of their job. They often cite "erratic driving" as a pretext for making a stop simply because they think you are intoxicated.
If stopped for a traffic violation, you may be put through field sobriety tests or even subjected to a breath, blood, or urine test. If the initial stop was without reasonable suspicion, your charges could be dismissed.
Consult Your Georgia DUI Attorney
If you have been pulled over as a result of so-called "erratic driving" it does not mean that the officer truly had reasonable suspicion when he or she pulled you over. An experienced Georgia DUI attorney can defend you against a pretextual traffic stop. Contact us today for a free consultation.