Do County Lines Affect An Officer's Ability To Pull You Over?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Mar 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

In law, there are limits as to how far a particular entity's power reaches. If an entity, such as a court or a law enforcement agency, overreaches and exerts power where it isn't legally allowed to, this can affect whether or not the case can even go forward. Thus, jurisdiction matters.

This is true for criminal cases as well. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a jurisdictional issue that dealt with officers crossing county lines. The Court considered whether or not a roadside stop was authorized when it was conducted by an officer who was not in his jurisdiction.

In the case, State v. Charles, the defendant –Alysia Charles –was stopped in Clayton County by a Fayette County deputy. The deputy and his trainee had seen Charles in Fayette County after she passed a local business. The reason the officers wanted to pull her over was because of a defective tag light. The officers followed Charles for about a mile before she stopped, just across the Clayton County line. Upon conducting the traffic stop, officers suspected Charles was under the influence of marijuana and she was subsequently arrested for DUI as well as possession of marijuana.

Prior to trial,

Charles moved to suppress the evidence from the traffic stop, and following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court ruled that the stop was not authorized because it occurred outside of Fayette County and did not fall within the ‘hot pursuit' doctrine, but the court did not apply the exclusionary rule because the evidence discovered in the stop was too attenuated from the unlawful traffic stop.

The state appealed, arguing that the officers were in ‘hot pursuit' of Charles and therefore the stop was permissible.

The appellate court stated that while an officer's jurisdiction is generally limited to “the territory of the governmental unit by which he was appointed,” there are exceptions to the rule. One of those exceptions is the ‘hot pursuit' doctrine. Under this doctrine, an officer is allowed to move “beyond his geographical limits in order to effectuate an arrest.” The court stated that the pursuit doesn't need to be a high-speed chase, rather,

[t]he critical elements characterizing ‘hot pursuit' are the continuity and immediacy of the pursuit, rather than merely the rate of speed at which pursuit is made.

In addition, the court stated that

[a] pursuing officer may, and should, wait to stop and arrest a suspect at the first opportunity for doing so which is, under the circumstances, safe for all concerned — the suspect, the officers and other motorists.

Applying this legal reasoning to the Charles' case, the court determined that the stop was permitted under the hot pursuit doctrine. The court found it compelling that the officers began their pursuit in Fayette County, that they had been going from a standstill to 55 mph, that they conducted the stop taking into account both safety and the nature of the reason for the stop, and that the pursuit was continuous and only lasted for one mile. The court then reversed the ruling of the trial court on the aforementioned motion to suppress.

Jurisdiction is just one issue that could arise in a DUI case. While building a defense, a knowledgeable and experienced Georgia DUI attorney, like those at the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson, will consider this and other issues, as well as any applicable defenses. If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI and/or other related offenses, please do not hesitate to contact our office today for a free case evaluation.

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Richard Lawson

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