Question: I can't believe I got a DUI when I got pulled over for having a tail light out. The Forsyth County deputy pulled me over just because a light was out. When he pulled me over he smelled my breath and asked if I'd been drinking and I said yes because I didn't want to lie to a police officer. I said I just had a couple and he asked me to do some field sobriety tests for him, which I did. I thought I'd do fine but I stumbled.
He gave me a breath test on the side of the road and I took it. I don't know how well I did because the cop never told me. I think I may have passed it but then about 3 minutes later he arrested me for DUI.
He took me to jail and I took another breathalyzer test and I blew a .231. I couldn't believe I blew such a high number because I only had 4 drinks, although they were pretty big. I drank some Jager, tequila and vodka that night but I didn't feel drunk, only buzzed.
I think I was driving fine but that light was out so the cop nabbed me. Can I really get charged with a DUI when my driving was legal, but I just had a light out on my car?
R.J. in Cumming, GA
Answer: A police officer can stop a motorist for any legitimate reason. The police need probable cause to stop a car, and that probable cause can be many things. Typically it's an offense like speeding, failure to maintain lane or a stop sign or red light violation. But it can be a non-moving violation, like a tag light or brake light not working.
If a cop notices any infraction, no matter how small, he can initiate a traffic stop. From there, if he suspects that a driver is intoxicated on alcohol or drugs, he can try to test that driver. And if the cop believes that the driver is less safe because of the ingestion of drugs or alcohol, he can make an arrest for DUI.
So, to answer your question directly, you can wind up being charged with DUI even if your driving was perfect.
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