You've likely witnessed traffic stops taking place alongside the road during your travels in Georgia. Perhaps you have been the person behind the wheel on occasion. Maybe a police officer said he got you on his radar gun driving five or more miles over the posted speed limit or that he thinks you've been drinking alcohol because of something he allegedly witnessed you doing while driving. The latter would constitute reasonable suspicion to make a DUI stop.
Police officers can't simply pull you over because they feel like it. Especially if they're considering making a drunk driving arrest, they must be able to show that they had reasonable suspicion to make a particular stop in the first place. If you wind up facing DUI charges and you do not believe an officer established reasonable suspicion to pull you over, you can pursue a personal rights violation petition in court.
Issues that qualify as reasonable suspicion
You have a right know why a police officer has pulled you over while driving. If the police officer says he or she is taking you into custody on suspicion of a crime, you also have the right to know exactly what crime he or she is alleging. The officer must also inform you of your Miranda rights. As far as reasonable suspicion to make a DUI stop, the following situations would typically qualify:
- The officer says your vehicle drifted over the yellow line separating traffic lanes.
- The officer says he or she noticed your brake lights coming on at non-essential times during traffic flow at the time.
- The officer says your speed was far too slow to match current traffic patterns.
- The officer witnessed you sitting at the front edge of your driver's seat as though you were trying to lean toward your windshield.
- The officer claims your vehicle almost side-swiped parked cars or a pedestrian.
- The officer says you used the wrong turn signal when making a turn or were driving at night without using headlights.
Any of these issues would constitute reasonable suspicion to further investigate your situation. If you were leaning too close to your windshield (according to a police officer's personal assessment at the time), this does not necessarily mean you committed a crime or were intoxicated. Any number of issues may have prompted you to lean forward in your seat.
This is why the burden of proof lies with prosecutors if you face DUI or other criminal charges in court. If you believe a law enforcement officer violated your personal rights during a traffic stop, you can take immediate steps to rectify your situation.