Most people know that the legal limit in most states is .08 grams. If a driver is found to be driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content ("BAC") at or above this level, that driver can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence. However, it is not widely known that a driver can still get arrested, charged, and convicted of DUI even if he or she has a BAC of less than .08 grams. In Georgia, this type of driving under the influence charge is called a DUI Less Safe. A DUI Less Safe is every bit as serious as any other type of DUI charge and if a person is convicted of this offense it can have a significant impact on his or her life.
If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence in Roswell or Alpharetta, please do not hesitate to contact Roswell DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today.
What Is A DUI Less Safe? How Do Police Determine Impairment?
Georgia law states that "[a] person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while . . . [u]nder the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive." O.C.G.A. §40-6-391(a)(1). The language in this section does not provide a specific BAC level that an individual must have in his or her system in order be considered under the influence of alcohol. In order to determine if an individual should not be behind the wheel when his or her BAC is under the legal limit, a law enforcement officer will look for other signs of impairment such as how the individual is driving, physical indicators such as bloodshot eyes or alcohol on the breath, and whether or not the individual can pass the standard field sobriety tests.
There are several different ways that a law enforcement officer can come to the conclusion that a driver has been drinking. One of the first indicators to a police officer that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol is if that individual is not obeying the rules of the road. If an officer sees an individual weaving, speeding, or otherwise failing to obey the traffic laws, then the officer may consider this a sign that the person driving the car should not be behind the wheel. A police officer observing a traffic violation is a common reason that a person will get pulled over in a DUI case.
Field Sobriety Tests
After an individual has been pulled over by the police, the officer may look for other signs that he or she is intoxicated such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the odor of alcohol on the person's breath. If the law enforcement officer suspects intoxication, the officer may then ask the driver to step out of his or her car and perform some field sobriety tests. If the driver exits the vehicle and cannot stand up without leaning on his or her vehicle or cannot walk without wobbling, these may also be indicators that the driver is too impaired to be behind the wheel.
A driver failing to pass the field sobriety tests is an indicator that he or she is not in full control of his or her faculties. There are a couple of different kinds of field sobriety tests that a police officer may have a suspected drunk driver perform such as:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a horizontal gaze nystagmus "is an involuntary jerking of the eyes that occurs as the eyes move to the side." In a person who has consumed alcohol, the nystagmus "is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles depending on the degree of impairment." During this test, the police officer will look for the presence of these jerking movements in the driver's eyes.
- Walk And Turn Test: Another test that can be used to determine if a driver is impaired is the walk and turn test. This test requires a driver to take nine heel to toe steps, then turn around and do the same thing again.
- One Leg Stand: This field sobriety test is exactly what it sounds like. A driver must stand on one foot for 30 seconds with their arms at their side.
It is important to note that things besides being under the influence can make these tests difficult for an individual to perform or may cause an individual to fail. For example, some people naturally have a nystagmus, so the presence of one would not be a reliable indicator of intoxication. In addition, a person who is elderly or overweight could have a difficult time performing the walk and turn test or the one leg stand. Furthermore, how a field sobriety test is administered may affect the results of the test as can other things such as environmental conditions like bad lighting, hills, or rain. Roswell DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson will provide you with dedicated and aggressive legal representation .
Can I Get A DUI Less Safe For Being On Drugs?
Yes, a DUI Less Safe applies to drugs as well as alcohol. The law in Georgia states that "[a] person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while . . . [u]nder the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive." O.C.G.A. §40-6-391(a)(2). This is true even if the drugs have been legally prescribed and obtained. A person can still be charged with a DUI if they are not operating their motor vehicle in a safe manner because of a prescription medication. If a law enforcement officer suspects a driver may be under the influence of drugs, that officer may call in a Drug Recognition Expert. This Expert will then go through a 12 step process with the driver to determine if he or she is impaired and should not on the road.
What Is The Penalty For A DUI Less Safe?
In Georgia, an individual's first DUI is typically considered to be a misdemeanor offense. The penalty for this offense can include a fine ranging from $300 to $1,000 and a maximum of a year in jail. Other penalties that may be imposed include community service, attending a DUI program, and a clinical evaluation. O.C.G.A. §40-6-391(c)(1)(A)-(E). In addition to the criminal penalties a driver may face, they can also lose their license for up to a year for driving while under the influence.
Contact A DUI Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in Roswell or Alpharetta, contact the Law Offices of Richard Lawson today. Richard Lawson is a skilled and knowledgeable attorney who has devoted his career to defending those who have been charged with driving under the influence. Do not face the criminal justice system alone, contact Alpharetta DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today by calling (404) 816-4440 or contact us online.