Watery eyes, alcohol on the breath, hitting a curb. That’s not enough evidence to say that a driver is drunk and his license should be suspended, a Georgia administrative law judge ruled on New Year’s Eve.
Georgia made national news last spring after the state Supreme Court ruled that drivers too drunk to give meaningful consent to breath or urine tests could get key evidence against them thrown out. The New Year’s Eve ruling confirms the standard for arresting a driver for DUI when they refuse to submit to field sobriety tests.
According to the ruling, Atlanta Police Officer Justin J. Brodnik stopped David Leoni after clocking him driving 55 mph in a 35 mph zone. While Brodnik testified that Leoni’s eyes were watery, they weren’t bloodshot. And though Brodnik said he detected “a moderate odor or alcoholic beverage” on his breath, Leoni gave appropriate responses to all questions, got out of his vehicle in a normal way and walked without any balance problems. Leoni told Brodnik he had been asleep when his friends called him for a ride, and he refused to take field sobriety tests.
In his ruling, Judge Michael M. Malihi noted that impaired driving ability depends solely on an individual’s response to alcohol, which varies person to person. A driver is consider drunk only when they are under the influence of alcohol to a degree that renders the driver incapable of driving, Malihi wrote. Officer Brodnik did not have the evidence to show Leoni was impaired and to arrest him, the ruling states, so there was not sufficient grounds for the Department of Driver Services to suspend his license while the criminal case was pending. The judge reversed the department and restored Leoni’s license.
There’s more here on Georgia’s standards for suspending a driver’s license for DUI. http://investigations.blog.ajc.com/2015/05/14/georgia-judges-drunk-driving-suspects-wont-get-licenses-back/