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Georgia DUI Roadblocks

About Richard Lawson

Were you stopped at a Roadblock in Georgia?

Roadblocks are highly common throughout Georgia. If you stop at a roadblock and an officer finds the odor of alcohol or marijuana, even remotely, it is likely that you will face a DUI investigation.  Richard Lawson is a former Georgia DUI Prosecutor with more than 20 years experience defending cases that involve roadblocks.  There are defenses in these cases.  Never assume guilt.  If the police do not implement the roadblock in a way that passes Constitutional muster, then they may not be able to prosecute your case. Only a Georgia DUI Lawyer, can evaluate the legality of the roadblock in your case.

Many DUI cases in Georgia are the result of vehicles which are stopped at roadblocks. In DUI roadblock cases, there is generally no evidence of impaired driving. These cases are prosecuted by using the officer's observations of the driver's speech, breath, etc. as well as performance on field sobriety evaluations or any chemical testing conducted during the stop. Because the accused is stopped at the checkpoint, the arresting officer will not have observed any actual traffic offenses or other indications of "less safe" driving due to alcohol intoxication.  Additionally, law enforcement is required to follow certain standards and precautions to ensure that roadblocks are set up in a constitutional and lawful manner.  That is why no person should plea guilty to a DUI without first looking in the validity of the roadblock involved in their case.

In Every Georgia Roadblock Case the Following Must Be Done To Make the Arrest Valid:

  1. The roadblock must be setup for a legitimate purpose.  That means it cannot be just for general law enforcement purposed.  For example, it can be a safety check, or seat belt check, or as the result of prior car accidents in the area
  2. The decision to implement the roadblock must be made by a police supervisor.  Ordinary police officers cannot start their shift and simply decide to have their own roadblock. A supervisor must decide to have the roadblock and do it in a way meets the requirements of legitimacy listed above.
  3. Every vehicle must be stopped.  They cannot selectively enforce the law or target any particular person, racial group, or sex.
  4. The roadblock must be well-identified and clearly marked.  It must inform drivers where it is located and for what purpose.
  5. The officer that comes to your window must actually be trained in DUI Detection.  The officer must be trained sufficiently to make the initial determination that the driver should be suspected of being DUI.
  6. The roadblock must not be randomly placed or a moving or roving roadblock.
  7. The roadblock cannot create an unreasonable burden on drivers and businesses.

If the Police do not follow the above-listed rules, your Georgia DUI Attorney can file a motion to suppress any and all evidence found in your case.  That can lead to a complete dismissal of your DUI charge.  That is why it's important to hire attorneys that understand Georgia Roadblock Defense.

This means that if the police do not implement the roadblock correctly, they may be prevented from using any of the evidence against you.  This can result in the complete dismissal of your Georgia DUI case.  So, it is imperative that you have a skilled Georgia DUI Lawyer available to evaluate the roadblock used in your case.

Typically, roadblock cases involve an officer who, if they smell alcohol when you are first stopped, will instruct you to pull over to a safe area where you will be met by a DUI officer who will begin the investigation. DUI investigation's that occur at roadblocks generally include field sobriety tests.

When we challenge the legality of a roadblock, the challenge is mounted by filing a motions to suppress.  At the hearing on the motions, both the supervising officer and the arresting officer must come testify.   The supervisor must establish the legality of the roadblock. Failure to prove this through these officers as witnesses may lead to a dismissal of your Georgia DUI charges. Georgia officers are not legally allowed to randomly stop vehicles with the purpose of catching or accusing drivers of DUI. There are good defenses available to drivers in roadblock DUI cases.

You Still Have Only 30 Days to Protect Your Ability to Drive in Georgia:

Even if the roadblock is invalid, before those defenses can be raised, you must protect your ability to drive.  As a result, your Georgia DUI Attorney must file an appeal of the automatic license suspension in your case.  Even in cases where the roadblock may be invalid, you have to protect your ability to drive by requesting an ALS Hearing or choosing to install an ignition interlock device.  Contact our office to begin protecting your rights.

Summary of Georgia Roadblock Law - 2013 Case Law Update:

Roadblocks are regularly used by law enforcement agencies in order to detect and apprehend DUI offenders.  A temporary detainment or seizure at a roadblock is subject to scrutiny under the Fourth Amendment and must have been implemented in a reasonable manner. See Connor v. State, 130 Ga. App. 74 (1973), Christopher v. State, 202 Ga. App. 40 (1991).  "The Fourth Amendment imposes limits on search-and-seizure powers in order to prevent arbitrary and oppressive interference by enforcement officials with the privacy and personal security of individuals." United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 544 (96 SCt 3074, 49 LE2d 1116) (1976).

Seizures are generally only reasonable under the law when there is an articulable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, but roadblocks are an exception to this rule. Roadblocks must be implemented within strict guidelines. The reasonableness of the initial stop is determined by balancing the public interest served by the roadblock program and the right of individuals to be free from arbitrary and oppressive interference by law enforcement.

There are certain requirements for roadblocks to be considered reasonable and pass constitutional scrutiny.  In Georgia, it must be shown that the decision to implement the roadblock as well as the procedures for carrying it out were made by supervisory personnel, rather than officers in the field; that the roadblock served a legitimate purpose; that all passing vehicles were stopped as opposed to random stops; that the delay to motorists was minimal; that the roadblock was well identified as a police roadblock; and the screening officers' training and experience was sufficient to qualify the officers to make a determination of which drivers should be investigated for impairment. Baker v. State, 252 Ga. App. 695 (2001); see also State v. Golden, 171 Ga. App. 27 (1984) and LaFontaine v. State, 269 Ga. 251 (1998).

To safeguard against “roving patrols” which create the risk of roadblocks set up spontaneously to target or oppress drivers whom officer see on patrol and want to stop and question with no articulable reason to do so, only supervisory personnel may make the decision to organize a roadblock. The implementation decision must be made in advance by a supervisor acting in that supervisory capacity, and not by an officer out in the field who happens also to have supervisory rank.  The supervisor must also have the specific authority to implement roadblocks. See Thomas v. State, 277 Ga. App. 88 (2005). This was clarified in the recent Georgia Supreme Court case Brown v. State (Ga., 2013). In Brown, Sergeant Marchetta, who was a shift supervisor in the Cobb County Police Department with the authority to do so, decided to implement a roadblock on April 9, 2010. The court found that the sergeant did not make this decision as a supervisor in advance, and so he was instead acting as an officer in the field at the time.

A supervisor who authorized the roadblock may still be present at the roadblock and not be considered a field officer. A supervisor may even participate in the roadblock at times, especially when traffic backs up.  The officer must have acted in his supervisory capacity when the decision to implement the roadblock was made, however.  See Gonzalez v. State, 289 Ga. App. 549 (2008); Jacobs v. the State, 308 Ga. App. 117 (2011).  Law enforcement agencies are not required to maintain documentation as to when, where, and by whom the decision to implement a roadblock is made, but it may be difficult to determine what role the officer was acting in at the time the decision was made if he also participated in the roadblock.

A law enforcement agency's roadblock program must have an appropriate primary purpose other than the general interest in crime control. Stops justified only by the generalized and ever-present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed some crime are not Constitutional. In previous cases, Georgia courts have stated that the inquiry is whether the purpose of the roadblock at issue was appropriate, but the Georgia Supreme Court recently clarified that the focus of the requirement is not on when, where, how, and by whom the specific checkpoint was implemented and operated but rather on why the agency uses checkpoints.

Thus, if the primary purpose of the checkpoint program is crime-fighting in general, then the checkpoints implemented under that program are unconstitutional, even if the decision to implement them was made well in advance by the official with the most policymaking authority in the agency. The roadblock's purpose must be reviewed at the "programmatic level" and may involve evidence relating to agency policy and practice. Brown v. State (Ga., 2013). See also City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000). Roadside roadblocks set up to check for driver's licenses, vehicle safety compliance, and driver impairment have all been approved by Georgia courts. Strickland v. State, 270 Ga. App. 187 (2004), established that roadblocks can be set up for the purpose of searching for witnesses or leads about a crime committed in the area.

The law enforcement agency's policy does not have to be in writing, and even if it is, other evidence may be offered to show that its written policy was properly limited, including testimony about restrictions being imposed through verbal orders or training or records showing that checkpoints have been done only for an appropriate purpose. Williams v. State (Ga., 2013).

In Williams, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office written policy provided that “vehicles may also be stopped at general roadblocks which serve legitimate law enforcement purposes.” The court found that "legitimate law enforcement purposes" include such objectives as vehicle safety and driver sobriety - but also include drug interdiction and other measures to detect "evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing" and advance "the general interest in crime control," which cannot justify a regime of suspicionless vehicle stops. Thus, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office's written roadblock policy, viewed properly at the programmatic level - what checkpoints are authorized by the policy, rather than what the purpose was for any specific roadblock - was not limited as the Constitution requires. Id.

The roadblock must also be identifiable as a police roadblock.  This is ordinarily accomplished through the use of orange cones and marked patrol vehicles with their blue lights flashing. The officers should be in uniform and will likely be wearing reflective vests.

The delay to passing motorists must also be minimal or there is a risk that the roadblock is overly oppressive to drivers and infringes on their rights under the Fourth Amendment.

Every vehicle passing through the roadblock must be stopped as opposed to random stops.  This is to prevent pretextual, targeted stops of vehicles. Not every vehicle will be asked to pull to the side for further investigation. In order to further detain a vehicle in a roadblock, the officer does not need a particularized belief or suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, the legal challenge instead would be to the qualifications and experience of the screening officer to make an initial determination as to which drivers should be investigated further.  Workman v. State, 235 Ga. App. 800 (1998).

Every vehicle passing through the roadblock must be stopped as opposed to random stops.  This is to prevent pretextual, targeted stops of vehicles. Not every vehicle will be asked to pull to the side for further investigation. In order to further detain a vehicle in a roadblock, the officer does not need a particularized belief or suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, the legal challenge instead would be to the qualifications and experience of the screening officer to make an initial determination as to which drivers should be investigated further.  Workman v. State, 235 Ga. App. 800 (1998).

The ultimate question remains whether the stop at a roadblock is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. Thus, even if the roadblock program and the particular roadblock at which a driver is stopped satisfies the formal requirements, the court may consider evidence that the basis for the stop at the roadblock was pretextual, or that the roadblock was used to harass, or was otherwise arbitrary or oppressive. To the extent that vehicle checkpoints become widespread, routine, and unregulated, that may suggest that the primary purpose of the agency's checkpoint program is actually general crime control, or that checkpoints are arbitrary and oppressive in view of the totality of the circumstances. See Brown.

The screening officers' training and experience must be sufficient to qualify the officers to make a determination of which drivers should be investigated for impairment. Proper training in the detection of driver impairment and standardized field sobriety training is likely adequate.  Officers will look for common manifestations of impairment including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, fumbling with driver's licenses or registration, incoherent answers to simple questions, and of course the odor of alcohol. Standardized field sobriety tests will be administered to further determine whether drivers are impaired.

If officers suspect drivers of attempting to avoid the roadblock, those drivers will be stopped. Incidentally evading a roadblock does not justify a stop, but strange maneuvers taken to avoid a roadblock may give an officer a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity even when the maneuver is not illegal. See Jones v. State, 259 Ga.App. 506, 507 (2003). Pulling over to the side of the road immediately upon seeing a roadblock or making an abrupt turn onto a side road may appear to be evasive. See Terry v. State, 283 Ga. App. 158 (2007). An officer must have a good faith belief that the driver was attempting to evade the roadblock. See Jorgenson v. State, 207 Ga. App. 545 (1993). But if no traffic offense is committed, and no otherwise suspicious driving maneuvers were made, the stop will not be justified. A U-turn made prior to a roadblock is not suspicious if legally executed.  See State v. Hester, 268 Ga. App. 501 (2004).

Act Now if your were stopped a a DUI Checkpoint in Georgia:

Contact our knowledgeable and experienced Georgia DUI lawyers today to get the facts straight around your stop and arrest.  Our attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Do not suffer Georgia DUI Penalties without first contacting our office.

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When you are arrested for DUI in Georgia, finding the right Lawyer is Job #1. At the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson we will investigate your case and find the best possible legal defense to your DUI in Georgia. You are in good hands with Richard Lawson and his associates. We will work tirelessly to help you while compassionately holding your hand throughout the entire DUI Defense Process.

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At the Law Office of Richard S. Lawson, we have offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If we do not have a convenient office, we will come to you. We practice throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. If your case is in an area we do not serve, we will find you an attorney in your area free of charge. Our office is part of a State-wide network of Georgia DUI Lawyers. Contact us 24/7 for immediate legal help. Our attorneys are standing by. Your DUI Case will not defend itself. Your Best Georgia DUI Defense Begins Here!