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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > DUI > How Long Can Georgia Police Detain You While Investigating a Suspected DUI?

How Long Can Georgia Police Detain You While Investigating a Suspected DUI?


When a law enforcement officer pulls you over for a traffic stop, they cannot detain you indefinitely. The United States and Georgia supreme courts have made it clear that an “investigative detention” should last “no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.” Even if the officer develops a reasonable suspicion of some other crime in progress during a traffic stop, such as a DUI, that officer must not unreasonably prolong the detention. The officer must pursue any such investigation with reasonable diligence.

Judge Throws Out DUI Evidence Gathered During “Unreasonably” Long Traffic Stop

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, State v. Jones, illustrates how DUI suspects can challenge an arrest based on an officer unreasonably prolonging a traffic stop. In this case, a police officer was en route to assist on an unrelated matter when he observed the defendant in this case committing a traffic violation. (The defendant made a left turn into an exit lane of a divided roadway.)

During the stop, the officer observed that the defendant “smelled of alcohol” and that his eyes appeared to be “gloss over,” both possible signs of intoxication. The defendant admitted he had been drinking. At this point, the officer decided to call for backup. While waiting for that backup, the officer engaged the defendant in small talk and advised him to “hang tight” until the other officer arrived.

About 11 minutes after calling for backup, a local sheriff’s deputy arrived. The deputy performed a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test on the defendant, which is a common field sobriety test. The first officer then proceeded to conduct several additional field sobriety tests. Nearly a half-hour into the stop, the officer then used a portable device to test the defendant’s breath for alcohol. The defendant pointedly asked the officer why the delay was necessary given he could have performed the PBT all along.

The officer arrested the defendant. Prosecutors subsequently charged him with various DUI offenses. The defendant moved to suppress all evidence obtained by the police after the officer called for backup, arguing that constituted an unreasonable prolonging of the original traffic stop. The trial court granted the motion. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defense and the trial court that the prolonged stop was unreasonable. But the appellate court also returned the case to the trial judge for a determination of whether the police had probable cause to arrest the defendant, notwithstanding the inadmissible evidence.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

When confronted by the police during a traffic stop, remember to remain calm and respectful. Also note that you do not have to engage in any small talk or answer questions about where you have been–or if you have been drinking. And if you are ultimately arrested and charged with drunk driving, you should not hesitate to call a Georgia Board-certified DUI lawyer to assist in your defense. 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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