DUI Defense in the Greater Athens Area

DUI Defense in the Greater Athens Area

DUI in Oconee County, Jackson County, Madison County and Oglethorpe County

When people in Georgia think about the Greater Athens Area, they mostly think about the college, UGA, and Athens-Clarke County. However, there are lots of areas around Athens where people live, work and travel. As a result, there are lots of areas around Athens where people can be charged with crimes. It can be scary to face criminal charges in any jurisdiction, and the area around Athens is no different. So what can you do to protect your Constitutional rights in the Greater Athens Area?

Greater Athens Area and DUI

There are several ways that people can find themselves charged with a DUI in Oconee County, Jackson County, Madison County, and Oglethorpe County. One example is roadblocks. You can also be arrested while coming home from a football game. No matter what, you are entitled to a robust legal defense to ensure that your rights are protected.

The areas which make up Greater Athens generally have a smaller population and a small town feel where everyone knows everyone else. This is especially true for the governments and criminal justice systems in those areas. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to hire a lawyer who has worked in these areas before, and who has the skills and experience needed to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

Greater Athens Area and DUI Defense

It important to understand the process of a solid DUI defense anywhere, but especially important when you are dealing with places like Winder, Watkinsville, Danielsville, Wintersville, Madison, and other cities in the Greater Athens Area. Each jurisdiction has its own procedures and protocols. Moreover, each city has its own set of judges and prosecutors. As a result, it can seem hard to defend a DUI in the areas around Athens.

There are a number of ways to challenge a DUI charge. A good DUI lawyer will check to make sure any tests are conducted properly. A good DUI lawyer will also analyze the reason you were stopped. They will check any evidence the state plans to present against you. Officer’s statements need to match the evidence presented, and any roadblocks must be conducted in a very specific way to avoid violating your rights.

Some citizens might be afraid to challenge their DUI charge. Others might be intimidated by the process and unsure how to proceed. These are the times where it pays to reach out to a DUI lawyer with over a decade of experience handling DUI and criminal cases in the Greater Athens Area. A lawyer who knows the people and processes that you’ll be interacting with is the best bet for a positive outcome in your case.

Free Consultations for DUI in the Greater Athens Area

If you’ve been arrested or charged with a DUI in the greater Athens area, call (706) 208-1514 or contact us to set up a free consultation. Jason Slider has the skills and experience needed to get the best possible outcome in your case. His past as a Georgia State attorney helps him spot weaknesses in the state’s case against you. He will use those weaknesses to mount an aggressive defense for you. He has lots of experience with DUI cases in the Greater Athens area. Additionally, Jason has won numerous awards for his DUI defense track record. The sooner Jason starts on your case, the better your defense will be, so don’t delay, call now!

Gameday Roadblock and UGA Home Football Games

Gameday and UGA Home Games

Gameday Roadblocks for DUI in Athens

Gameday is one of the biggest draws for people coming to visit Athens. It not only brings people in from out of town, but also brings out locals, residents, and students to enjoy the fun and the atmosphere. However, the fact that Athens seems like one big party on Gameday doesn’t mean that there aren’t any rules. Police officers in Athens and in the surrounding areas will still be around in force to ensure everyone is having fun in a safe and law-abiding manner. A Gameday roadblock is one of the most common law enforcement tools used by police during UGA home football games.

Gameday Roadblocks in Athens

Athens-Clarke County law enforcement are known to set up a number of different roadblocks during Gameday. These roadblocks usually cover a few important and heavily traveled routes into and out of the downtown area of Athens, as well as the main arteries through the Greater Athens Area. This means you are likely to encounter one of these checkpoints on your way in to or out of Athens.

The purpose of a roadblock in Athens is to stop and inspect all or nearly all of the cars using that road. Police are looking for evidence of crimes during these inspection. Therefore, roadblocks can be understood as a type of police search. As a result, they are covered by the rules for police searches.

In addition to Athens-Clarke County police, the UGA Police will also assist in traffic stops and checkpoint efforts. Many people think that UGA Police have no jurisdiction off campus, but that isn’t the case. The UGA Police are state police. They have authority within 50 miles of University System of Georgia property anywhere in the state. Functionally, that means UGA Police have the authority to pull you over, issue citations, and arrest you anywhere in Georgia.

The list of things that police might look for during a roadblock is nearly unlimited. Therefore, plenty of issues exist with these roadblocks and checkpoints. Supreme Court and Georgia court rulings require Athens-Clarke county police to conduct Gameday roadblocks and check points in a very specific way.

Gameday Roadblocks around Athens

Athens-Clarke County isn’t the only law enforcement branch that uses UGA home games as an excuse to set up roadblocks and checkpoints. Many of the surrounding cities and counties also set up stops for drivers going to or returning from games.

Oconee County, Watkinsville, Danielsville, Madison, Jefferson, Jackson County, Greensboro, and other police departments are known to use roadblocks into and out of Athens when UGA plays at home. These roadblocks and checkpoints are regulated by the same court rulings as the Athens-Clarke County police. As a result, there are multiple rules they must follow to avoid infringing on citizen’s Constitutional rights.

Gameday Roadblock DUI Defense

We’ve written before about DUI and Gameday roadblocks, both in Athens and in the surrounding areas. Roadblocks are a tricky subject for police. They must be conducted in a very specific way to avoid violating your Constitutional rights. Some roadblocks, like the example from the link in the previous section, result in an absurd number of arrests and citations. This summer, one roadblock in Centerville produced 42 arrests and citations.

There are a number of ways to challenge DUI and other charges that result from roadblocks and check points. Lawyers can challenge the way the roadblock was set up, for example. A lawyer can also challenge the way the police conduct the roadblock, or the way they respond to citizens driving into the checkpoint.

Free Consultations for Gameday Roadblock DUI

If you’ve been charged with a DUI resulting from a Gameday roadblock, call or contact Baker & Slider to set up a free consultation. We can help you understand the process that you’ll go through, and will fight to protect your Constitutional rights. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in America. DUI charges are no different. Jason Slider has the skills and experience you need to get the best possible result for your Gameday roadblock DUI. He has successfully challenge roadblock procedures in and around Athens in the past. Additionally, as a former State attorney, he has the inside knowledge need to aggressively defend your case. The sooner Jason starts working on your case, the better your defense will be, so call (706) 208-1514 today and set up your free consultation.

Oconee County DUI Arrests After UGA Games

Following the football game between the University of Georgia and the University of Tennessee, several DUI arrests were made in Oconee County.  Georgia State Patrol had indicated prior to the game that they planned on having an increased presence in and around the Athens area, which included Oconee County, and that the increased presence would come in the form of roadblocks.  This increased law enforcement activity resulted in an increased number of DUI and drug arrests in Oconee County.  It is anticipated that this will continue to occur following home University of Georgia football games throughout the remainder of the football season. Learn how to protect your rights from an Oconee County DUI charge.

Oconee County DUI Process

Generally an Oconee County DUI charge is initially prosecuted in the Probate Court of Oconee County.  However if there are additional charges that the Probate Court does not have jurisdiction to handle, such as felony drug charges, the case will be prosecuted in the Superior Court of Oconee County.  Whether the case is prosecuted in the Probate Court of Oconee County or the Superior Court of Oconee County, the State will have to be able to prove that the arrested person should be convicted of DUI.  The State can attempt to prove that a person is guilty of DUI in several different ways, some of which will depend upon whether a person submitted to a state administered breath or blood test to measure a person’s blood alcohol concentration or to see if that person tests positive for certain drugs.   

Additionally, if the stop was done at one of the Georgia State Patrol roadblocks, the State will be required to prove that certain minimal standards for roadblocks have been met.  These requirements for roadblocks have been established by the United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Georgia in various cases over the past several decades.  In October 2013, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued rulings that continued to define the minimum requirements required in order for a roadblock to be upheld as constitutional.  These cases were Brown v. State and Williams v. State

The Supreme Court of Georgia held that in determining if a roadblock is constitutional it must be established that there is an appropriate primary purpose at the programmatic level.  This means that the roadblock policy of the particular law enforcement agency needs to be reviewed “to ensure that an agency’s checkpoints are established primarily for a lawful and focused purpose like traffic safety rather than to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.” Brown v. State, 293 Ga. 787 (2013). 

Therefore a failure of the State to prove this requirement will mean that a roadblock established under that particular policy will not meet the required constitutional standards, and would thus mean that evidence secured at traffic stops from that roadblock would be inadmissible. 

The Supreme Court continued in their ruling by stating that “we rely on the trial courts of Georgia to evaluate the evidence presented in each case to determine if the requirements for a constitutionally valid checkpoint have been satisfied.”

Free Consultations for Oconee County DUI

At the law firm of Baker & Slider, we have been reviewing and arguing roadblock cases since our inception.  If you have been arrested or stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with our DUI attorney.  It is important to speak with an attorney that handles DUIs in Oconee County (Watkinsville) Georgia.  Contact us or call (706) 208-1514 to set up a free consultation today. The sooner we begin working on your defense, the better the results will be. 

DUI Test Challenge Successful in GA

Whenever the State or another party attempts to enter evidence of the results of a scientific test, they must be able to show that the test is reliable enough for the jury to consider it. This ensures that parties cannot use the results of scientifically unreliable methods to try to prove their case, thereby misleading the jury. A blood and breathalyzer DUI test is generally considered reliable evidence, but they are subject to mistakes and misuse. When the State attempts to enter the results of these tests as evidence to support a DUI conviction, they must be able to show that the DUI test used properly authorized equipment and were conducted in the manner they were intended to be used. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looks at what happens when the State fails to lay this type of foundation.

The Case

In The State v. Warren, Mr. Warren was stopped by officers of the Union County Sheriff’s Office while driving his motorcycle. He was observed speeding and passing a vehicle in a no-passing zone.  When he was stopped, the officer noticed that Mr. Warren was having difficulty staying on his feet and that his speech was slurred.  Mr. Warren was unable to identify which state he was in and also began talking to himself.  The officer proceeded to ask Mr. Warren to submit to a preliminary breath test, which he did. The test indicated that there was the presence of alcohol in Mr. Warren’s system,  and he was arrested for DUI. Mr. Warren subsequently refused to comply with a blood test.

Prior to trial, the court held a suppression hearing concerning  the State’s attempt to enter evidence of Mr. Warren’s preliminary breath test. The State tried to lay a foundation for the test by asking the officer leading questions about the test, but the questions were stricken by the court. When the State tried to ask the officer open-ended questions about the nature of the test, he was unable to fully explain how the test was authorized and by whom. Accordingly, the court refused to admit evidence of the test, finding that a proper foundation had not been laid. The State appealed the ruling.

In Georgia, statutes provide that evidence of chemical tests in a DUI case may be admitted if the test was performed “according to methods approved by the Division of Forensic Sciences of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation,” and the test was conducted using a device that was approved of and permitted by the Division of Forensic Sciences. At Mr. Warren’s hearing on his breathalyzer test, the State asked the officer who administered the test who had approved of the device that he was using. He was unable to say. The State attempted to re-ask the question, asking him who authorized him to use such a device, but the officer was only able to definitively state that his Sheriff had authorized him.

The Verdict

On appeal, the State argued that it should have been allowed to ask leading questions to the officer to solicit a correct answer and that it should be allowed to re-ask such questions, or to ask such questions at trial. It did not, however, confirm that had the officer been asked leading questions, he would have stated that the Division of Forensic Sciences approved his device. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals denied the appeal. They held that they could not assume that the officer would testify that the device was properly approved and permitted, and the State had not represented that this would be the case. Since the State failed to make clear what the evidence would have been, it was not clear that a proper foundation would be laid, and the trial court’s ruling was affirmed.

Challenge DUI Test Results

Cases like these are a good reminder that the results of a chemical test alone do not have to spell doom for your case. Blood and breathalyzer tests are fallible, and the State always bears the burden of proving their reliability and the adequacy of their results. If you feel that your test was not properly administered or was otherwise compromised in some way, it is important that you fight these results in court.  

Free Consultation to Challenge Your DUI Test

At Baker & Slider, LLC, our DUI defense attorneys have helped many defendants successfully contest the results of a DUI chemical test and suppress such evidence in court. For more information or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office at 706-208-1514.

Missing Evidence Causes DUI Reversal on Appeal

One of the central tenets of the criminal justice system is that the state has the burden of proving that a defendant is guilty of the crime that is alleged. A defendant is always innocent until the state proves otherwise. Sometimes, even when the state has not met its burden of proof, a jury may still determine that the defendant is guilty. This may be because they have preconceived notions about the defendant, presume the defendant must be guilty, or make assumptions about evidence that the state has not actually presented. In these situations, a defendant can challenge a conviction based on the sufficiency of the evidence.  A recent Georgia defendant made just such a challenge in Cash v. The State.

The Case

Cash was driving a vehicle in Forsyth County when he and his passenger pulled over to try to figure out where they were going. A sheriff driving by noticed that their car was pulled over and became concerned that they needed assistance. He turned on his lights and pulled up behind Cash’s car. He approached their vehicle, asked if they needed assistance, and noticed an odor of alcohol in the vehicle. When he asked  Cash if he had been drinking, Cash admitted that he had had a few beers earlier in the evening. The sheriff then asked Cash to participate in a field sobriety test, which Cash failed.  At that point, the sheriff placed Cash under arrest, read him Georgia’s Implied Consent warning, and administered a breathalyzer test.

At trial, the State offered the sheriff to testify about what he had observed, including the smell of alcohol, Cash’s inability to complete a field sobriety test, and the admission that he had been drinking. However, the State did not actually admit evidence of the breathalyzer test results. Despite the lack of test results, Cash was found guilty of committing a DUI by driving with a BAC of .08 or more, and of driving under the influence while less safe to drive. Cash immediately appealed.

On appeal, Cash argued that the State had not met its burden of proving either of the charges for which he was found guilty because the State improperly handled the breathalyzer test results.  Specifically, as to his DUI conviction for a BAC of .08 or above, the State had not actually provided evidence of his blood alcohol concentration and could not prove the offense. The appeals court immediately agreed, noting that without the test results, the State had provided insufficient evidence of the offense. It reversed this conviction.

The Verdict

As to Cash’s conviction for driving while less safe to drive, the appeals court also decided to reverse this conviction. It noted that while the State had not introduced evidence of the breathalyzer tests at the trial, it had improperly allowed the tests to be considered by the jury in the jury room, which should not have happened. Since these test results may have improperly influenced the jury’s decision, the appeals court held that the conviction had to be overturned.

Free Consultations for DUI Cases

If you have recently been charged with a DUI in Georgia, do not overlook the immense burden that is put on the State to prove the charges against you. If the State fails to provide sufficient evidence of your criminal charges, but you are still unfairly convicted, you can appeal. At Baker & Slider, LLC, our DUI defense attorneys have helped many defendants prepare a trial strategy aimed at highlighting the inadequacies in the prosecution’s case and attacking such inadequacies on appeal if necessary. For more information or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office at 706-208-1514.

Can Bars be Liable for DUIs and Accidents?

In most DUI cases, an individual who is injured as a result of another driver’s actions will seek to hold the drunk driver liable for the damages that occurred.  While only jail time and other punishments can be sought in the criminal context, civil claims against a drunken driver can also lead to an award of costs or damages that the injured individual experienced. When the driver has little ability to pay such costs on his or her own, injured plaintiffs may seek to hold other third parties, with deeper pockets, liable for the harm that resulted. A recent case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia looks at whether individuals who own bars where liquor is served can be held liable for the drunken actions of their customers.

The Case

In Barnes v. Smith, Ms. Barnes sued Mr. Smith after she was injured in a DUI accident involving a driver who had been drinking at Mr. Smith’s bar. At the time, the bar, Hank and Jerry’s Tavern, was owned by a company that Mr. Smith owned. Mr. Smith was not at the bar on the night of the accident, but his employees were. They noticed that the driver, Mr. Knight, had been drinking excessively and was becoming belligerent. They tried to take away his keys, to call him a cab, and even to restrain him in the bar to keep him from leaving. After he became violent, they allowed him to leave when he promised to sleep in his car. Instead, he drove away, running into Ms. Barnes and causing her serious injuries. In response, Ms. Barnes sued the owners of the Tavern, including Mr. Smith, alleging that Mr. Smith negligently trained and supervised his employees.

Mr. Smith moved for summary judgment, arguing that he could not be held personally liable for the accident, and the trial court agreed. Ms. Barnes appealed.

The Verdict

In Georgia, individuals or entities that serve alcohol to individuals may be held liable for torts that their patrons cause in very, very limited circumstances. Typically, however, individuals who own companies but don’t actually participate in the operations of the company that caused the tort, such as the serving of alcohol, cannot be held liable for the actions of other individuals.  This is because in order to be personally liable for a tort, the individual must have been personally involved.  Here, although Mr. Smith did not serve Mr. Knight alcohol, Ms. Barnes argued that he negligently trained his employees. In Georgia, however, negligent training is not sufficiently direct participation to hold an owner liable for a tort. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals found that summary judgment for Mr. Smith was appropriate on this basis.

Moreover, to the extent that Ms. Barnes also argued that Mr. Smith directly participated by negligently supervising his employees on the night of the accident, the Court of Appeals determined that there was not sufficient evidence to support the argument that Mr. Smith was negligent in his supervision. Ms. Barnes provided no evidence that the staff on duty that night had problems with serving alcohol to overly intoxicated patrons, or did not know how to keep patrons from driving while intoxicated. Without such evidence, Ms. Barnes’ claim could not stand. Under the circumstances, the Court of Appeals therefore affirmed the grant of summary judgment.

Free Consultations for DUI, Personal Injury, and Civil Liability

When a DUI occurs, it is not only the driver who can be held liable for injuries and damages that may result.  Victims may attempt to bring claims against unwitting employees and owners of establishments that served alcohol to the driver, or that allowed the driver to drive while he was drunk. If you are a Georgia resident who has been accused of civil negligence as a result of a DUI, it is important that you speak with a qualified DUI attorney.  At Baker & Slider, LLC, our Athens DUI attorneys can advise you on how to proceed.  Additionally our personal injury attorney, John Baker, can answer questions about the issue of civil liability following a DUI accident.  For more information or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office at 706-208-1514.

Refusing DUI Test as a Defense in a Recent Case

When faced with the decision of whether to agree to participate in state administered alcohol testing following an arrest for DUI at a traffic stop, drivers have many factors to consider. A refusal to cooperate can be used against them in DUI proceedings and can result in the suspension of one’s drivers’ license.  A recent case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia also illustrates the ways in which prosecutors use alternative criminal charges to get around refusing a DUI test. In Fitzpatrick v. State, when prosecutors lacked evidence of the defendant’s exact alcohol level, they added additional charges for serious injury by vehicle and violations of Georgia’s open container law, in addition to the typical driving while intoxicated charge.  While the defendant argued they lacked the evidence to support a conviction for these additional charges, the Court of Appeals disagreed.

The Case

The defendant, Mr. Fitzpatrick, was attempting to make a left turn while driving when his vehicle struck the vehicle of another party who was approaching from the opposite direction. In the crash, the victim broke several bones and was forced to use a wheelchair for months after the accident.  Mr. Fitzpatrick was interviewed by officers at the scene, who noticed that he smelled of alcohol and that there was an open beer can in his car. Mr. Fitzpatrick initially agreed to one sobriety test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, but refused all others. He also refused a breathalyzer test and later refused a blood test at the police station. Although Mr. Fitzpatrick later admitted that he had been drinking, police were never able to obtain evidence of his blood alcohol level.  While Georgia prosecutors brought a DUI claim against him, they also decided to charge him with serious injury by vehicle and open container violations, given the evidence obtained at the scene of the accident. He was acquitted of the DUI charge but convicted by the jury as to the other two charges, and he appealed.

On appeal, Mr. Fitzpatrick argued that in order to be convicted of the serious injury by vehicle offense, he first had to be convicted of driving while under the influence, which did not happen. Without this predicate offense, Mr. Fitzpatrick argued that his conviction could not stand. Under Georgia law, an individual can be charged with serious injury by vehicle if he or she uses a vehicle to render another individual’s body useless while driving under the influence.  Since he was acquitted of driving under the influence, Mr. Fitzpatrick argued that he should also be acquitted of serious injury by vehicle.  The Court of Appeals disagreed.

The Verdict

It held that serious injury by vehicle did not require that the defendant first be convicted of a predicate offense. Instead, the statute only requires that prosecutors show a causal relationship between the injury that occurred and the fact that the driver had been drinking. Here, the State had provided evidence of this relationship, including the beer can in the car and Mr. Fitzpatrick’s later statements that he had been drinking while in the car.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals upheld the conviction even in the absence of blood alcohol results or a conviction for driving under the influence.

Understand how Refusing DUI Test Affects Your Case with a Free Consultation

If you have been stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence, , a refusal to submit to the state administered blood, breath or urine test does not always mean you will avoid further legal battles. At Baker & Slider, LLC, our DUI defense attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have about a refusal of a chemical test, and how to address such refusals in court. For more information or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office at 706-208-1514.

Constitutional Violations and DUIs in Georgia

Issues of illegal searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment arise frequently in DUI cases. Individuals may be improperly stopped by police officers, or the search of a driver and his or her vehicle may exceed the scope of the traffic stop. Police officers may also fail to obtain the proper consent before taking blood alcohol samples from drivers whom they have stopped. These types of constitutional violations are treated seriously by the courts, but they do not always mean that a DUI or other conviction will be overturned. Instead, if the state can show that the error was harmless, a conviction may sometimes be upheld. A recent case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia looks at whether Constitutional Violations can be harmless in certain circumstances.

The Case

In Stoica v. State, Mr. Stoica was pulled over by police after he was observed driving erratically on a local highway. When police pulled him over, they noticed that his speech was slurred, and he was so unsteady on his feet that they could not perform field sobriety tests on him. They then arrested Stoica and read him Georgia’s implied consent notice. When they asked him to consent to have his blood drawn, his response was not audible on tape, but officers testified that he had consented. Stoica’s blood was drawn at a police station, and he was charged with a DUI per se, DUI less safe, and failure to maintain his lane. At trial, Stoica moved to suppress evidence of his blood test results, arguing that his consent was not given voluntarily, and the taking of his blood was an illegal search and seizure. The motion was denied, and Stoica objected again at trial to to the introduction of the evidence of his blood tests. Stoica was ultimately convicted of both DUI charges and the failure to maintain a lane.

After trial, Stoica argued that his blood tests should not have been admitted because the evidence suggested that consent had not been obtained voluntarily. The court agreed, finding that Stoica’s extreme intoxication meant that he might not have understood the implied consent notice that he was read, and it was not clear he gave actual consent. The court granted Stoica a motion for a new trial on his DUI per se count, but it denied it as to the DUI less safe and failure to maintain a lane convictions. Stoica appealed this decision.

On appeal, Stoica argued that the three charges were so intertwined that if the error in admitting the blood test required a new trial of his DUI per se count, it also required a new trial for his other two convictions. The State, conversely, argued that the admission of the blood test was harmless error as to these two other charges because there was more than sufficient evidence for a conviction, even if the blood test results were excluded. The appeals court agreed.

The Verdict

The appeals court held that even constitutional errors can be harmless if “it can be determined beyond a reasonable doubt that [the error] did not contribute to the jury’s guilty verdict.” In this case, the court noted that the jurors were presented with evidence of Stoica’s erratic driving, his slurred speech and inability to stand up straight, his inability to complete field sobriety tests, an open container of alcohol in his car, and the officer’s interactions with him. Based on all this evidence, the appeals court held that it was overwhelmingly obvious that Stoica was a less-safe driver and that he failed to maintain a lane. Accordingly, the court denied Stoica’s appeal.

Constitutional Violations and DUI

The Fourth Amendment is a strong defense against aggressive and unethical police tactics. If you have been subjected to a search or seizure that you believe was unwarranted, the Fourth Amendment may protect you from the admission of evidence resulting from such conduct in court. However, where a court incorrectly admits evidence resulting from a Fourth Amendment violation, defendants must also note that they will need to show that such errors were not harmless. 

Protect Yourself from Constitutional Violations with a Free Consultation

At Baker & Slider, LLC, our Athens DUI defense attorneys have helped many Georgia residents successfully establish Fourth Amendment violations and ensure the exclusion of evidence derived from those violations at trial. For more information or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office at 706-208-1514.

DUI Roadblocks in Athens, GA and UGA Football

Many DUI cases arise out of traffic stops conducted by police when they have a reasonable suspicion to believe that a driver may be intoxicated. Under federal law, a stop is a constitutional seizure as long as police have a reason to believe that a crime is being committed.  However, sometimes, drivers are not pulled over because of anything they have done but stumble across DUI roadblocks that have been set up to monitor traffic.

These DUI roadblocks were often used recently following University of Georgia football games.  When a roadblock is established, a search or seizure may occur even though the driver has done nothing to arouse a suspicion of criminal activity. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals considers the claim of a DUI defendant that the roadblock that resulted in his DUI was unconstitutional under such circumstances.

The Case

In Kettle v. The State, Mr. Kettle and his wife were driving their vehicle at around 2 AM when they were stopped at a roadblock that had been set up by Georgia police. When the patrol officer asked Mr. Kettle for his driver’s license, he noticed that Mr. Kettle smelled of marijuana and appeared to be talking more slowly than normal. He asked Mr. Kettle if he had been smoking marijuana, and Mr. Kettle admitted that he had. The patrol officer asked Mr. Kettle to conduct a few field sobriety tests and found that he was unable to keep his balance and that his speech was slurred. As a result, he determined that he was driving under the influence and arrested him. Mr. Kettle ultimately agreed to blood testing and was charged with a DUI, for which he was later convicted. At the trial, Mr. Kettle moved to suppress evidence obtained while he was stopped at the roadblock, on the basis that the roadblock was unconstitutional. The trial court denied the motion, and Mr. Kettle appealed.

In Georgia, roadblocks are constitutional, and evidence obtained from roadblocks may be used, as long as the roadblock’s primary purpose was something other than general crime control. In order to ascertain whether this was the case, courts may look at (1) whether the roadblock was implemented pursuant to a checkpoint program and had a primary purpose other than general crime control, and (2) whether the decision to implement the checkpoint was made by a supervisor in advance rather than by an officer in the field.  Here, Georgia’s State Patrol had a roadblock policy that allowed roadblocks for the purposes of checking drivers’ licenses, insurance, vehicle registration, or vehicle equipment. The patrol officer in charge of the roadblock also testified that the officers conducting the roadblock were instructed to check for these various issues and that they were aware that using a roadblock for crime deterrence purposes was impermissible.

The Verdict

Based on this evidence, the court of appeals determined that Georgia’s roadblock policy allowed for routine roadblocks for permissible purposes and that the roadblock being conducted when Mr. Kettle arrived was also conducted for these permissible reasons. Accordingly, it held that the roadblock was not unconstitutional, and the motion to suppress was correctly denied.

Beat DUI Roadblocks in Athens

If you are charged with a DUI as a result of a roadblock that occurred while you were driving, you may be able to suppress the evidence of your DUI if the roadblock was conducted for impermissible reasons. If you have reason to believe that police officers were attempting to search for possible criminal activity or were trying to engage in criminal deterrence, the roadblock may have been unconstitutional. 

Free Consultations for DUI Roadblocks

At Baker & Slider, LLC, our Athens DUI defense attorneys are familiar with the requirements for legal roadblocks and can assist you in filing a motion to suppress if the roadblock you experienced was set up for improper purposes. For more information or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office at 706-208-1514.

Double Jeopardy Ruling for DUI in Georgia

It is a fundamental tenet of a criminal defendant’s rights that a defendant cannot be tried or punished twice for the same crimes. Once a defendant is tried and convicted for a crime, or otherwise punished via a plea deal or remedies outside the courtroom, the state cannot, at a later date, attempt to punish the defendant again for that same crime. In support of this principle, many states have passed their own double jeopardy laws, which make clear how and when double jeopardy should apply in state courts. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals takes a closer look at Georgia’s double jeopardy statute and when it should be applied to prevent further criminal proceedings.

The Case

In The State v. Garlepp, Mr. Garlepp was stopped by police officers after he was observed swerving wildly to avoid a car that had stopped to turn. The officer initially stopped Mr. Garlepp because he was following too closely, but once he approached Mr. Garlepp’s vehicle, he noticed a strong odor of alcohol. Mr Garlepp, who was only 20 at the time, admitted he had been drinking. After performing several sobriety tests, Mr. Garlepp was arrested for a DUI per se because he was under 21, as well as for his failure to wear a seat belt. For reasons that were not clear, two separate citations were filed against Mr. Garlepp – one for each crime. Shortly thereafter, the solicitor general’s office reviewed the seat belt citation and issued it to Mr. Garlepp, who promptly paid it. Around the time that it was paid, a separate individual in the solicitor general’s office reviewed the DUI citation and  filed an accusation against Mr. Garlepp for the DUI per se. Mr. Garlepp promptly filed a plea at bar to dismiss the accusation on the ground that it violated Georgia’s double jeopardy laws because he had already been punished for the seat belt citation. The trial court agreed and dismissed the charges. The State appealed.

Georgia’s double jeopardy statute, OCGA 16-1-7, prohibits multiple prosecutions for the same conduct. In order for a defendant to invoke the statute to prevent multiple prosecutions, he or she must show (1) that the crimes arise from the same conduct, (2) that they are known by a proper prosecuting officer at the time the prosecution begins, and (3) that they are within the jurisdiction of the same court. Here, neither party disputed that the crimes arose from the same conduct, since they came from the same traffic stop. Likewise, neither party disputed that jurisdiction was within the same court. Instead, the State argued that the officer at the solicitor general’s office who reviewed the seat belt citation and issued it was not aware of a separate pending DUI citation because they had been filed separately.

The Verdict

While the trial court had held that the court should look at the knowledge possessed by the solicitor general’s office as an entity, rather than by any one individual, the appellate court disagreed. It held that the officer prosecuting the crime had to have knowledge of both crimes in order for the double jeopardy prohibition to apply. In this case, the court held that there was no evidence to suggest that the officer who handled the seat belt citation was at all aware of a separate DUI citation and had determined to dispose of both crimes with the seat belt citation. Since Mr. Garlepp could not show such knowledge existed, the court of appeals reversed and remanded for further consideration by the trial court.

Free Consultation to Understand Double Jeopardy and DUI Cases

For many defendants stopped on suspicion of a DUI, a DUI charge may not be the only criminal accusation they face. Often, defendants will also be charged with unsafe driving, driving too closely, open container violations, or a failure to wear a seat belt. If officers or prosecutors later knowingly pursue one of these crimes separate from your DUI offense, you may have a claim that double jeopardy prevents further prosecution of a DUI charge. At Baker & Slider, LLC, our DUI defense attorneys can assist you in preparing a double jeopardy defense and evaluating the viability of multiple prosecutions. For more information or to set up an initial consultation, contact our office at 706-208-1514.