The Georgia State Patrol will soon be paying extra attention to drivers along Interstate 20 that choose to drink and drive with a new DUI task force. It has been reported in the news that the Georgia State Patrol has created a new DUI Task Force along 1-20. The New Task Force, GSP Troop E, will be patrolling their 21 assigned counties that are along Interstate 20, from Conyers to the South Carolina state line.
As of now, there are eleven troopers assigned to the task force whose “home bases” are in Monroe, Madison, Washington, Milledgeville, and Grovetown, Georgia. They will go at least one time a month to different counties within their territory for patrolling and DUI checkpoints, or roadblocks. They will work with local law enforcement in providing support to their current DUI enforcement. Last weekend, September 12th and 13th was the launch of the initiative.
The State Patrol says that all of these officers were trained in Standardized Field Sobriety and Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement Training. Four members of the task force have received training as Drug Recognition Experts, with one of them being a Drug Recognition Expert instructor.
On Friday night, September 12th, the task force worked with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office and made twenty-five arrests. The task force went to McDuffie County on Saturday the 13th and made another seven arrests. The Georgia State Patrol says there are more patrols planned and on the way for Walton County and Oglethorpe County.
I would expect that there would be an increase in DUI checkpoints, and the GSP will likely setup roadblocks along I-20 at highly trafficked exits. However, the police cannot just put up a roadblock without making sure they follow strict procedures outlined by case law interpreting the 4th Amendment limitation against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Interpreting United State Supreme Court Decision Michigan v. Sitz and its progeny, law enforcement must follow the following guidelines whenever they setup a DUI checkpoint:
- The roadblock must be setup for a legitimate purpose; meaning it cannot be just for general law enforcement purposes. For example, it can be a safety check, or seat belt check, or as a result of prior car accidents in the area.
- The decision to implement a roadblock cannot be made by an “ordinary” police officer. An officer cannot start their shift and just choose to have a roadblock; a supervisor must decide to have the roadblock and do it in a way that meets the requirements of legitimacy listed above.
- Every vehicle must be stopped and law enforcement cannot selectively enforce the law or target any particular person, racial group, or sex.
- The roadblock must be well identified, clearly marked and must inform drivers of the location and purpose.
- The officer that comes to your window must be trained in DUI detection, and must be sufficiently trained to make an initial determination that the driver should be suspected of being DUI. The roadblock must not be randomly placed or a moving or roving roadblock.
The roadblock cannot create an unreasonable burden on drivers and businesses. It cannot be a roving roadblock or used to target a specific person or group of people. Additionally, Georgia case law has added that the roadblock must be approved at the "programmatic level" and have a "legitimate purpose." As the Georgia Supreme Court likes to remind us, the Georgia Constitution provides greater protections to our citizens than the United States Constitution, which serves only as a floor insofar as our civil rights.
The point is that the police cannot implement a roadblock to round up suspected DUI drivers. A roadblock is an exception to the Constitution, not the rule. The Georgia State Patrol is not allowed to run wild with their new DUI task force, and I would not expect they will. However, if their roadblocks do not meet legal and constitutional standards, a skilled Atlanta DUI Lawyer will be able to challenge the legitimacy of the roadblock with a motion to suppress.
Be Careful Driving After Consuming Any Alcoholic Beverages:
Many people think Georgia has a "legal limit," but nothing is further from the truth. We have a "per se" .08 limit like most states. However, you can be charged with DUI Less Safe at alcohol levels far below .08. If you are a less safe driver due to the consumption of alcohol, you can be charged with DUI at any blood alcohol content (BAC) level. Being below .08 is not a defense, and DUI Less Safe does not mean the DUI charge is a lesser DUI; it is every much the same as any other DUI insofar as your punishment or criminal record is concerned.
Don't be fooled by the word "less" here. DUI Less Safe is just as serious as any DUI offense.