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What can occur at a DUI checkpoint or reasonable suspicion stop?

| Mar 9, 2020 | DUI |

During major holidays or high-profile events, Georgia’s law enforcement officials set up DUI checkpoints at predetermined times and locations to screen vehicles for impaired motorists. Overall, however, officers may stop any motorist when he or she shows visible signs of violating a traffic law. 

When a motorist pulls up to a stop sign and has to slam on the brakes, for example, it may indicate speeding. A law enforcement official pulling over the vehicle may also begin to question the driver if there are reasonable signs of impairment. 

A strong odor of alcohol, slurred words or a confused demeanor can provide a reasonable suspicion that a motorist is driving under the influence. An officer then has the legal right to ask a motorist to undergo a field sobriety test or submit to a roadside breath test. 

Does stopping a vehicle infringe on Fourth Amendment rights? 

Because DUI checkpoints serve a legitimate public purpose, such as spotting impaired drivers on a holiday weekend, they do not infringe on an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. Checkpoint sites must, however, remain clearly identified, and officers must check all vehicles passing through. 

Outside of an identified checkpoint, stopping a motorist whose actions provide reasonable suspicion of impairment does not infringe upon an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights, as noted by WMAZ TV. A law enforcement official may perform a standard field sobriety test without a warrant when he or she suspects a driver’s impairment. Probable cause for an arrest, however, must be stronger than an officer’s reasonable suspicion that a motorist is driving under the influence. 

What type of probable cause is necessary for a DUI arrest? 

By failing a field sobriety test, an individual provides an officer with more than “reasonable” evidence of his or her impairment. The officer may then ask the motorist to submit to a roadside breath test. Blood alcohol content results of 0.08% or more from a roadside breath test can provide a law enforcement official with sufficient probable cause to arrest and charge an individual with DUI.