State Route 400 is a 54-mile long highway that travels through the northern part of Georgia. It begins in Atlanta and ends up in the city of Dahlonega. It was formerly a toll road and was even featured in the film Smokey and the Bandit. This stretch of road has also been the site of several recent accidents involving drunk drivers and law enforcement officers.
One such incident occurred this past week when 25-year old Joseph Gipe was driving along Ga. 400 and rear-ended an Alpharetta police officer's vehicle. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Officer Dustin Bak “was going about the speed limit . . . when Gipe drove up rather quickly and smashed into the back end of the patrolman's vehicle.” The officer is “expected to make a full recovery” and Gipe is now facing DUI charges.
This is not the first time that this has occurred this month. Another law enforcement officer was more seriously injured in a crash with a suspected drunk driver. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Deputy First Class Rod Reeves works for the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office and was “on traffic duty and parked on the shoulder of the northbound lanes [of Ga. 400] near Majors Road when a 2005 Ford Explorer hit the rear of Reeves' patrol car shortly after 1:30 a.m.” Reeves' injuries were reportedly significant but not life-threatening and he was transported to the hospital. Aaron Riley Russell was the driver of the Ford Explorer. The 27-year old is a habitual violator and was driving with a revoked license. He too now faces DUI charges.
A few months prior to these incidents, another crash occurred on Ga. 400, this time involving a bartender from Buckhead. The woman, Ceijai Broughton, hit Officer Jomo Bent who was patrolling in a construction zone at the time of the crash. She rear-ended the officer's SUV and injured her passenger as well as the officer. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she was “very drunk at the scene and before impact, [police] said a witness tried to get her attention” by honking his horn at her as he had noticed she was swerving. The officer was released from the hospital about an hour after being brought there and Broughton was charged with DUI as well as following too closely and violating the state's Move Over law.
While it is unclear why Georgia State Route 400 has played host to so many accidents involving drunk drivers and police officers, it is clear that injuring someone while intoxicated can result in more stringent penalties than a typical DUI charge, especially if those injuries are serious.
In Georgia, Serious Injury by Vehicle is defined as “causing bodily harm to another by depriving him of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless through the violation of [the state's reckless driving or DUI statutes.]” O.G.C.A. § 40-6-394. What is considered a serious injury is not clearly defined, however, injuries ranging from loss of vision in one eye to broken ribs have been considered serious in the past. The penalty for this offense is also considerably more serious than the penalty for a first DUI offense. Not only is it a felony, but if convicted a driver could face up to 15 years behind bars.
If you have been charged with a DUI or any other related offense, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced and knowledgeable Atlanta DUI attorney today. Never face severe Georgia DUI Penalties without first speaking to our office.