DUI: I wasn't that drunk

Question: I got arrested in Forsyth County in Georgia. I live outside of Cumming. I was driving home from a night out when I was pulled over by a Forsyth County deputy sheriff. He said I was speeding. I told him that I never speed. The policeman didn't like it when I said that, and he told me he thinks everyone speeds at some time, even him.

He made me get out of my car and do some tests. I didn't do very well on them because my shoes are new and uncomfortable. So I slipped a little a few times. But I didn't fall. Then he had me do a breath test. But he didn't tell me how I did.

He asked me if I'd been drinking and I said I had a couple of beers and a couple of shots of bourbon. But I told him I really wasn't drunk because I was drinking water the whole time and I had a lot of bread to eat. I said I had a slight buzz. And all I really had was a slight buzz.

I guess he didn't believe me and arrested me for DUI and took me to the jail in Cumming. There I took a breath test again and I scored a .144. I couldn't believe it was so high because I just had a buzz.

Can I still be guilty of drunk driving if I only had a buzz and I wasn't drunk? I have had a DUI before in 2003.

T.K. in Forsyth County, Georgia

Answer: In the Georgia DUI law, the word "drunk" is never used. The reason that it is never used is because being "drunk" is totally subjective. What is drunk to one person is barely buzzed to another.

Under Georgia law, the question is whether or not someone is a less safe driver because they have been drinking (or using drugs). Whether someone is a less safe driver is determined by a number of things, including how they sound, what they say, how they look performing field sobriety tests and how they do on the Intoxilyzer test (if it is taken).

That you did not do well on the field sobriety tests can be problematic to your defense. However, the fact that you did poorly on the breath test is a strong piece of evidence for the prosecution. (The per se limit is .08 and you were substantially higher.)

Again, you do not have to be drunk to get a DUI; the question is whether you were a less safe driver because of ingesting alcohol.

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