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Before you read this page...
I have provided this list of commonly asked questions as a service to potential clients. I have chosen these questions because I think they are all important things for the public to understand about the criminal justice system, and I have spent a great deal of time trying to answer them honestly, fairly, and completely.
However, no web site can substitute for a consultation with a trained attorney. If you have questions about your specific situation, you should talk to a lawyer. There is simply no substitute for the advice of a trained attorney who has discussed your situation with you. You should also remember that this website deals only with Georgia law. The law in other states may be different.
While I have done my very best to be honest and thorough, this web page does not constitute legal advice about your situation. If you have any doubt, you should talk to a lawyer.
My initial consultation is absolutely free, and if you would like to consider having me as your attorney, I would be happy to discuss your situation with you and answer whatever questions you have. Simply call me at (678) TALK-LAW or fill out the contact form on this website and I will be in touch with you.
Traffic Stops
What should I do if I am pulled over by the police?
  1. Stop at the first place you can safely pull over.
  2. Turn off your car.
  3. Leave your keys in the ignition.
  4. Place your hands on the wheel.
  5. Do nothing else.
The most important thing to remember if you are pulled over is that you want the officer to know that you are not a threat and you want to avoid giving the officer any excuse to suspect you of anything.
Things you should not do if you are pulled over are:
  • Go through your pockets looking for your driver's license
  • Take off your seatbelt
  • Look for your insurance or vehicle registration
  • Talk on your cell phone
  • Reach for anything in the vehicle
  • Get out of the vehicle
When you are first pulled over, the officer waits a few moments before approaching your car to see what you do. If he sees you reaching into the glove compartment, he could suspect that you are trying to grab a weapon or hide drugs. If you go through your pockets, he could suspect that you are hiding something, or trying to get rid of something in your pockets.
These things all increase your chances of enduring a lengthy stop, having the police search your vehicle, or making the officer nervous (good advice: never make a guy with a gun nervous). All you have to do is sit there.
Eventually, the officer will come up to your window and ask you for your license and whatever other documents he wants. Give him what he asks for, but wait until he asks. You don't get any extra points for having your insurance card in your hand when the officer approaches the car--it just makes him wonder what else is in your glove compartment.
From that point forward, make it your mission to be the person the officer doesn't even remember. Say as little as you possibly can. And when you get home, if you have any more questions, you should talk to a lawyer.
If the officer asks me to submit to tests, what should I do?
The police are trained to give two different kinds of tests when making DUI arrests. Only one of them can affect your driver's license. I will discuss all three, but if you have any doubt, you should refuse the tests until you can speak with an attorney.
The first kind of test is called a Field Sobriety Test. For this test, the officer asks you to perform certain tasks, like walking in a straight line, standing on one foot, reciting the alphabet, or following a flashlight with your eyes. You should never, under any circumstances, agree to take these tests. Even if you are completely sober, taking these tests cannot benefit you, but can seriously hurt you because the police can use them as evidence if you take your case to trial. These tests are not based on credible science, and the decision about who passes or fails a Field Sobriety Test is up to each individual officer. No matter how well you think you followed the officer's instructions, almost everyone fails.
Refusing to take a Field Sobriety Test first kind of test will not affect your driver's license.
The second kind of test is a chemical test of your blood or breath to detect alcohol. This is usually performed with a Breathalyzer machine at the jail after you are arrested. If you refuse the Breathalyzer, you could have your driver's license suspended as a result. If you refuse this test, the officer will read a message from the State to you saying that you could lose your license.
However, most of the time, you should still refuse the Breathalyzer test. First—the machines can be poorly maintained and unreliable. A poorly calibrated machine might show you to be more intoxicated than you actually are. Second—even if the test shows that you are under the legal limit, it can still be used against you if the State decides to prosecute you for a "less safe" DUI. Finally, even if you refuse, you have a chance to fight the suspension of your license by sending a letter and a fee to the State within ten days of your arrest.
As a general rule, I advise my clients that if they have had anything at all to drink in the previous 24 hours, they should refuse the Breathalyzer test and talk to a lawyer immediately after they get out of jail so that they can send the letter and try to save their license.
If you find yourself in this situation and you cannot remember what you should do, you should refuse the test and talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
If the State can't prove that I was above the legal limit, can I still be convicted of DUI?
Yes. In Georgia, there are two kinds of DUI charges. If the State can show that you had a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or higher, they will charge you with DUI per se. (Lawyers love fancy Latin words, but this just means "DUI where you're over the legal limit")
However, even if the state does not have test to prove that you were above the limit, and even if if you took the test and were below the legal limit, the State can still convict you of "DUI Less Safe" by proving that you had some alcohol or drugs in our system (even a tiny amount), which made "it is less safe for the person to drive."
Getting Arrested
Can the police arrest me if ...
To arrest you lawfully, a police officer must have probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime. This means he must have some evidence specifically related to you (being in the wrong neighborhood or around the wrong people doesn't count) that connects you to some violation of the law.
However, in reality, the police are not limited to arresting you lawfully. They can arrest you can arrest you unlawfully for any reason or no reason and come up with a justification afterwards. If there was no reason to suspect you of anything, the police can just make one up.
Is it right? Of course not. Does it happen? Every day. If you think you have been arrested unlawfully, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
What happens if I get arrested?
How long can I be held in jail before I am charged with a crime?
A very long time.
Talking to the Police
Should I talk to the police?
Why shouldn't I talk to the police?
But you don't have to take my word for it. If you're not totally convinced that the best thing you can do for yourself is to remain silent and ask for your lawyer--just watch the video below, where a law professor and a police officer explain in detail why you should never, ever, talk to the police. The video is good enough and the issue is important enough that I provide DVDs of it free of charge. Just contact my office and ask for one.
What happens if the officer doesn't read me my Miranda rights?
If you follow my advice and don't say anything to the police, it won't matter. On TV, the police always tell the suspect that he has "the right to remain silent" and so on right before the commercial break. In real life, police don't have to read Miranda when they arrest people, and in Georgia, they almost never do.
The police have to "read you your rights" before they interrogate you, not when they arrest you. If you are questioned while in police custody without being read your rights, your lawyer might be able to prevent the State from using whatever you say from being used against you in court. If you think this has happened to you, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
However, there is a far easier way to protect your Miranda rights. Don't talk to the police. If a police officer tells you that "you have the right to remain silent," there is only one right thing to do—remain silent. Don't answer any questions until you can speak to a lawyer.
Are the police allowed to lie to me?
Absolutely. They can, and often do lie to suspects to obtain the statement they want. The police can claim to have an eyewitness that does not exist. They can claim there is videotape where there actually is none. They can make up statements and say that your friends or someone else has said them about you.
The police are not merely willing to lie to you, they are trained to lie to you. The police are taught to say whatever they have to say to get you to give them the statment they want. The only thing you can do to protect yourself is to say nothing at all until you can speak to a lawyer.
But what if the police offers to help me if I cooperate?
The police can't make a deal with you that would keep you from being charged even if they wanted to. They don't have the authority. The only people who have the authority to reduce or dismiss the charges against you are prosecutors--lawyers--and they usually don't enter the picture until long after you are arrested.
If you have information that the State wants, you need to get a lawyer who can talk to the prosecutor for you and work out a deal that you can count on.
Law Offices of Adam J. Klein   •   6 Concourse Parkway, Suite 2920   •   Atlanta, GA 30328   •   (678) 825-5529   •