It’s not against the law for those who are of age to go out for a drink at the bar. However, since an officer can issue a DUI to someone who is under the legal BAC level of 0.08%, you may feel wary about whether a cop is watching you when you leave to drive home.
Here’s when a law enforcement officer can and cannot pull you over after you leave a drinking establishment.
When you break a law
The first thing to know is that a law enforcement officer is obligated to make a traffic stop if they see a driver break the law. Usually, this happens when someone defies a traffic law, such as not making a full three-second stop at a stop sign, passing the speed limit or driving with expired license plate tabs.
However, you could also be pulled over for littering, vandalism, trespassing or another non-traffic related law if an officer witnessed you doing it.
What counts as reasonable suspicion
Sometimes an officer can pull you over by merely suspecting you have broken the law. However, there are certain parameters that define when an officer’s suspicions can be considered “reasonable.”
For example, it is illegal for an officer to make a traffic stop based on racial profiling. Similarly, an officer can’t sit outside of a bar and pull over any driver who leaves the establishment.
This is because even though the officer can reasonably suspect that the person leaving the bar has drunk alcohol, the officer can only make a traffic stop if the person demonstrates their driving abilities are impaired.
In some cases, an officer may also be able to pull over a vehicle if the description of the car matches a criminal complaint.
In Georgia, there is an exception that allows police officers to pull over drivers and request they take a breathalyzer test without any reasonable suspicion. This exception can only happen at a sobriety checkpoint.
A sobriety checkpoint is a roadblock that law enforcement officers can set up to select random drivers for DUI tests. While some states have ruled this practice as unconstitutional, Georgia had decided that the threat drunk drivers pose to public safety is greater than a person’s right from unreasonable search and seizure.
Sobriety checkpoints must be announced well in advance through a local publication or signage in the area. This can help drivers avoid these spots. Drivers who approach a sobriety checkpoint can also choose to turn away and take another route if legal to do so.
If you are stopped
During a traffic stop you should never admit fault but always comply with the officer’s direction. This is important to do even if you suspect the policeman is making a false arrest. Drivers who refuse to take a chemical test can get their driver’s license revoked for a minimum of one year.
If you are facing DUI charges, talking to a lawyer can help you determine whether a law enforcement officer followed protocol when pulling you over, giving you your test and making the arrest.