The importance of your driving in your DUI case cannot be understated. One of the charges that you will most likely face is that you had an impaired driving ability as a result of alcohol or drugs. There are four (4) major categories of evidence that typically comprise the State's DUI case:
- your manner of driving,
- your appearance and demeanor,
- your performance on field sobriety tests (FSTs) or your alleged refusal to submit to field sobriety testing, and
- the results of the blood-alcohol or drug test or refusal to submit to the request for testing.
(It is important to recognize that, particularly in Georgia, there are significantly appeals pending addressing the admissibility of refusal of field sobriety tests, chemical tests submitted to pursuant to the State's current implied consent advisement, and refusal to the submit to testing pursuant to the implied consent advisement.)
There are some very common observations of a suspect's driving that we hear from officer's in DUI cases, and a skilled lawyer can effectively use those observations to your benefit or, at a minimum, neutralize the impact of the observations.
- Speeding as the basis for a DUI stop. An officer's testimony about a suspect's speeding can be used favorably by the defendant. On cross-examination, the stopping officer should be led to admit that control of a vehicle requires greater judgment and coordination as speed increases. If an area is posted for 45 miles per hour, for example, that is what is considered the maximum safe speed for a normal, sober driver. It should be pointed out through questioning (and later in argument), that driving in excess of that speed without mishap requires an even greater degree of judgment and coordination than that expected of a “normal, sober” person — and certainly much greater than that expected of an intoxicated driver.
- Weaving as the basis for a DUI stop. Weaving is probably one of the most is almost universally found in the arrest report of drunk driving cases. During cross-examination of the officer(s) and in closing argument, it should be pointed out that weaving within one's own lane is not nearly as unusual or indicative of impairment as it sounds. Don't overlook explaining the defendant's “erratic” driving behavior by the condition of the vehicle. When a police officer follows a driver for any distance: black-and-white fever. The normal reaction of most motorists to being followed by a marked police vehicle becomes understandably nervous. More important, consider asking the arresting officer why he did not pull the defendant over at an earlier point. why did he permit him to continue on for almost a mile and endanger the lives of dozens of others on the highway.
A skilled DUI lawyer understands the importance of attempting to use the manner of driving to show that there was an innocent explanation for the driving and the driving actually demonstrates that the driver was not impaired.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Research on the Relationship of Driving to DUI
Many officers attempt to testify to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) “Guide for Detecting Drunk Drivers at Night” regarding the relationship between certain driving observations and their determination that the driver was impaired. According to NHTSA, there are 19 common traffic maneuvers or mistakes that reliable initial indicators of drunk driving. NHTSA also provided a statistical probability that a driver that commits these infractions will be under the influence or DUI.
Turning with wide radius - 65
Straddling center or lane marker - 65
Appearing to be drunken - 60
Almost striking object or vehicle - 60
Weaving - 60
Driving on other than designated roadway - 55
Swerving - 55
Slow speed (more than ten miles per hour below limit) - 50
Stopping (without cause) in traffic lane - 50
Drifting - 50
Following too closely - 45
Tires on center or lane marker - 45
Braking erratically - 45
Driving into opposing or crossing traffic - 45
Signaling inconsistent with driving actions - 40
Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane) - 35
Turning abruptly or illegally - 35
Accelerating or decelerating rapidly - 30
Headlights off - 30