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DUI Roadblocks in Georgia

Posted by Ben Sessions | Dec 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

DUI roadblocks in Georgia and, more generally, roadblocks in Georgia continue to be of questionable validity following the Georgia Supreme Court's rulings in Brown and Williams. The Charales case affirms this trend against the validity of DUI roadblocks in Georgia.

DUI ROADBLOCKS IN GEORGIA: FACTS OF CHARALES

Following a bench trial, Robert Charales a/k/a Robert Chakales was found guilty of driving under the influence to the extent it was less safe to drive (“DUI less safe”) and driving under the influence with an unlawful alcohol concentration (“DUI per se”). Charales appeals the denial of his subsequent motion for new trial, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his pretrial motion to suppress because (1) the checkpoint at which he was stopped was unlawful, and (2) police failed to timely read him the implied consent notice. Because the State failed to demonstrate that the law enforcement agency's checkpoint program had an appropriate primary purpose, we reverse.

Charales v. State, No. A14A1040, 2014 WL 5838573, at *1 (Ga. Ct. App. Nov. 12, 2014).

[O]n March 14, 2009, Charales was arrested and charged with DUI less safe and >DUI per se following his inability to properly perform field sobriety tests at a checkpoint implemented by the Atlanta Police Department (“APD”). With Charales's consent, police administered two Intoxilyzer 5000 tests, which indicated blood alcohol levels of .206 and .215. Charales was charged with DUI per se and DUI less safe. Prior to trial, he filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the checkpoint was unlawful and the police failed to timely read him the implied consent notice, and the trial court denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing. Following a stipulated bench trial, the trial court found Charales guilty on both counts, and it merged the less safe count into the per se count. The trial court denied Charales's subsequent motion for new trial, and this appeal followed.

Charales v. State, No. A14A1040, 2014 WL 5838573, at *1 (Ga. Ct. App. Nov. 12, 2014).

DUI ROADBLOCKS IN GEORGIA: THE HOLDING OF CHARALES

1. Charales argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the State failed to prove that APD's checkpoint was lawful. We agree.

“[W]here a defendant challenges his initial stop at a police checkpoint by way of a motion to suppress, the State bears the burden of proving that the seizure was constitutional.” In Brown v. State, the Supreme Court of Georgia reaffirmed the five requirements that the State must show for a checkpoint to be upheld as constitutional as required by the United States Supreme Court in LaFontaine v. State:

(1) the decision to implement the [checkpoint] was made by supervisory personnel rather than the officers in the field; (2) all vehicles were stopped as opposed to random vehicle stops; (3) the delay to motorists was minimal; (4) the [checkpoint] operation was well identified as a police checkpoint; and (5) the “screening” officer's training and experience was sufficient to qualify him to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be given field tests for intoxication.

In addition, in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, the United States Supreme Court “supplemented LaFontaine's test for evaluating the implementation and operation of the particular checkpoint with a distinct requirement focused on the law enforcement agency's checkpoint program.”

At a minimum, the State must show that the law enforcement agency's checkpoint program had an appropriate primary purpose other than ordinary crime control—a purpose examined at that programmatic level, rather than by trying to determine the motives of the supervisor who implemented and the officers who conducted the particular checkpoint at issue.

In this case, pretermitting whether the checkpoint established by the APD met the five LaFontaine requirements, the State has failed to prove that the checkpoint program had an appropriate primary purpose.

Sergeant Zachery Wilson testified at the suppression hearing that he, acting as a field supervisor, called for the checkpoint that evening where Charales was stopped and arrested. According to Sergeant Wilson, the purpose of that particular checkpoint was not crime suppression, but rather to “check for driver's license[s], seat belts[, headlights,] and safety violations.” There was, however, no testimony nor any written evidence admitted regarding the APD's checkpoint policy or program as a whole. As the Supreme Court of Georgia recently explained,

a finding that a particular checkpoint has a primary purpose other than ordinary crime control is not enough to satisfy the Edmond requirement. Edmond requires an examination of the policy purpose of the checkpoints, viewed at the programmatic level, 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.”

Because the State failed to show that the APD's “‘checkpoint program had an appropriate primary purpose other than ordinary crime control' when viewed at the programmatic level[,] … we therefore must conclude that the checkpoint at which [Charales] was stopped violated the Fourth Amendment.”15 Thus, the trial court erred by denying Charales's motion to suppress.

Charales v. State, No. A14A1040, 2014 WL 5838573, at *1-2 (Ga. Ct. App. Nov. 12, 2014)

The Charales case teaches several valuable lessons for the Georgia DUI defense attorney. DUI cases and, particularly, roadblocks that serve as the basis for DUI charges. It is important to know how to approach a case strategically. Take a look back at the facts of Charales. Charales is not a case that was going to be won on the merits, but the trial lawyer recognized the weakness in the State's case and properly capitalized upon it.

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Atlanta, Georgia 30309

Phone: (470) 225-7710

About the Author

Ben Sessions

I work to provide exceptional service, attention, and results to each of my clients. Most of clients come to me because they are in a completely overwhelming situation. They need someone that will do more than address their legal problems.

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