When individuals are stopped on suspicion of a DUI, they will often find that they are asked if their car may be searched for any evidence of alcohol or drugs. In addition to searching a vehicle, police may also attempt to search the individual themselves, including engaging in a pat-down, checking pockets or purses, or otherwise ensuring that there is no illegal substance or proof of intoxication on the person at the time. Depending on the context of the stop and the information known to the officer at the time, these searches may be legal or illegal under the Fourth Amendment’s right to protection from unlawful searches and seizures. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals considered whether evidence collected from a person at the time of a traffic stop could be suppressed on this basis at trial.
Under Georgia law, evidence of prior DUIs is generally admissible in a DUI proceeding when a criminal defendant has refused to take a state-administered alcohol test, if the prior DUI will be used to show knowledge, plan, or absence of a mistake. Although such evidence is generally admissible, it can sometimes be excluded if a defendant can show that the prejudicial impact of such evidence outweighs any helpful value it may provide to the jury. In a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals, one defendant argued that his prior DUI should have been excluded and that, as a result, his counsel’s failure to object to the introduction of such evidence was ineffective assistance of counsel.
Despite the best efforts of criminal defendants and their attorneys, sometimes judges and juries get it wrong. They may miss a key piece of evidence, find themselves overly swayed by the opinions of certain experts, or simply have a bias against the defendant in the case. When this happens, they can end up finding a defendant guilty when the state did not meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Thankfully, our justice system understands that these types of errors occur and allows defendants an opportunity to appeal a trial court decision to a higher court of appeals. While the appellate process can ultimately remedy any errors that were made, it takes time and can leave criminal defendants in limbo while they wait. A recent case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia looked at whether defendants may be entitled to bond while they await the outcome of their appeal.
When evidence is obtained in a manner that may violate a criminal defendant’s rights, the defendant can move to have the evidence suppressed. If a court grants a motion to suppress, the evidence cannot be used during a DUI trial. Additionally, the state may not make references to the evidence at trial either, since it could prejudice the jury by suggesting to them that there is incriminating evidence out there that they are not being allowed to see. While mistakes sometimes happen, courts take a hard line against parties who attempt to reference inadmissible evidence at trial. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals considers just such a circumstance.
The state of Georgia permits law enforcement officers to conduct police roadblocks for the purpose of preventing drunk driving, but it requires that the officers abide by very specific requirements when doing so. Since an unjustified stop of a vehicle can constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection from search and seizure, police can conduct checkpoints only in limited circumstances, and they must show that they have done so in a manner that does not single out, or discriminate against, any certain group of individuals. Roadblocks must also be conducted pursuant to state procedures and must use officers who are clearly trained on procedures for dealing with potentially intoxicated drivers.
In Georgia, when a driver is stopped on suspicion of possible drunk driving, one of the first things that police officers may do is conduct a field sobriety test with the driver to determine whether there are any initial indications of intoxication. Field sobriety tests can include such things as walking in a straight line or standing on one foot. If the driver fails these exams, it can lead to an arrest and further testing, including breath and blood alcohol testing. In a DUI prosecution, the State will frequently seek to introduce evidence from field sobriety tests as proof of intoxication, but in order to do so, the tests used must be sufficiently valid to be admitted into court. A recent case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia evaluated the validity of field sobriety exams.
Under Georgia law, when drivers repeatedly engage in impaired driving, they may be convicted of an additional crime of being a habitually impaired driver. This means that not only may a drunk driver be charged with a DUI, but based on his prior driving history, he may also be charged with the felony offense of habitual impaired driving, which comes with additional criminal punishments. Habitual impaired driving is a statutory crime for driving after being declared a habitual violator, and a driver can only be convicted if the statute is properly followed. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates what happens when the letter of the statute is disregarded.
Potential clients always ask, if there is not a video or the police officer forgot to activate his video until later in the encounter does that mean that their case will be dismissed. A recent ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals discussed an issue of when the audio on a video recording stops working. When considering admissible evidence at trial, courts generally abide by the rule of completeness, which means that if one individual seeks to introduce portions of a document, video, or recording, the other party may request that additional parts of the evidence be provided to the jury (such as the rest of the video) so that the jury has a complete picture of the evidence and the evidence cannot be misrepresented. But what happens when the other parts of the evidence are missing because they were lost, destroyed, or never collected at all? A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals considers whether part of a police video recording may be admitted when the audio on the recording inexplicably stopped working after a certain point.
As a general rule in criminal proceedings, evidence of a defendant’s bad acts, simply to show that the defendant has a “bad” character, are not admissible. Any evidence introduced to show a defendant’s prior misconduct must have some relevance to the current crime being tried. This means that the character evidence must go to issues such as a pattern or practice by the defendant, motive, or intent to conduct the crime at issue. In a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the court addressed whether prior evidence of a DUI may be admissible or inadmissible character evidence.
As previously discussed on this blog, police seeking to take a blood test of an individual believed to be intoxicated are required to obtain consent before proceeding with such tests, since the test itself constitutes a warrantless search. Without consent, a warrantless search is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. While in many cases, consent is as simple as a clear yes or no answer, this is not always true when dealing with individuals who are heavily intoxicated. If they are suffering from serious confusion or disturbances resulting from severe alcohol or drug intoxication, an individual may be physically incapable of truly consenting to a blood test. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals considered just these circumstances.