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Do the Police Need to Justify Prolonging a Traffic Stop to Conduct a DUI Investigation?


When a police officer pulls you over for a traffic violation, they are not allowed to prolong the stop longer than is necessary to address the violation–i.e., to issue you a ticket. The officer may continue to detain you if they develop “reasonable suspicion” of some other criminal activity, such as DUI or possession of a controlled substance. But an officer may not extend an otherwise routine traffic stop in the hopes they might find some evidence of other wrongdoing.

Appeals Court Tosses DUI Case After Prosecutors Fail to Explain 30-Minute Delay

A June 2023 decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Goode v. State, provides a case in point. In this case, a deputy sheriff was in the process of transporting a suspect to jail when he saw two vehicles failing to maintain their lane of travel, a clear violation of Georgia traffic laws. Rather than initiate a stop himself, the deputy called to another officer who was patrolling the area. The second officer initiated a traffic stop of both vehicles, which were operated by the defendant in this case and her husband, respectively.

About 30 minutes later, the first deputy arrived at the scene. While speaking with the defendant, the deputy said he detected the smell of alcohol. He decided to begin a DUI investigation. He asked the defendant to submit to a breath test and she agreed. The defendant’s blood alcohol content was 0.099, just shy of the 0.10 legal limit. The officer then placed the defendant under arrest for DUI.

Before the trial court, the defendant argued the evidence against her was inadmissible because the police “impermissibly extended” the traffic stop. The trial judge denied that motion. But the Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant and held the evidence should be suppressed.

Notably, the Court of Appeals cited the trial judge’s failure to make any findings regarding what took place in the 30 minutes between the first deputy calling the second officer to initiate the traffic stop and the first deputy’s arrival at the scene to conduct his DUI investigation. For some reason, the state failed to offer any evidence on this issue. The Court of Appeals said that was a mistake. The state had the burden of proving that the traffic stop was “not unreasonably prolonged” under the circumstances. Having failed to meet that burden, it could not use any evidence gathered from the extended traffic stop against the defendant in court.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

Remember, during a traffic stop you do not have to answer any police questions or provide any information beyond your driver’s license and vehicle registration. And if the police do arrest you on suspicion of DUI, it is important to remain calm and never answer any questions until you have spoken with a Georgia Board-certified DUI lawyer. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.


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