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Monday, October 21, 2013 - 11:32am

Court Clarifies Police Stop Rules

DUI attorneys are celebrating a pair of opinions released by the Georgia Supreme Court Monday, in which the justices threw out evidence gathered at roadblocks in Bibb and Cobb Counties because sheriff’s deputies didn't tick the legal boxes involved in stopping all traffic.

According to longstanding state and federal precedent, police have to go into a roadblock with a plan and a specific goal in mind, said Macon lawyer Ann Parman, such as “looking for unlicensed drivers, insurance, defective equipment.”

“And it has to be legitimate,” she added. “They can't just put up a roadblock just to put out a tuna net."

The case in Cobb County involved a man who was arrested for marijuana possession during a traffic stop that had a specific objective, but had not been sufficiently planned in advance, according to a case summary prepared by Ga. Supreme Court staff.

In Bibb County, the case concerned a man arrested for driving drunk at a traffic stop that had no stated objective at all, according to the summary.

Officers or deputies can still make arrests for offences not covered by the original objective, said Macon attorney Mike Cranford. "A car pulls up, there's a dead body in a back seat, they're certainly not going to ignore that," he said.

“But basically what this [pair of rulings] means is these two agencies, Cobb and Bibb, were doing it wrong. Which only makes you wonder how many other agencies across the state are doing it wrong," Cranford said.

Both Cranford and Parman said law enforcement agencies across Georgia have been playing it fast and loose with the rules, and that's now likely to change.