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Georgia appellate court rules police checkpoint was unlawful

In mid-May, the Georgia Court of Appeals concluded that a road block conducted on Fourth of July weekend in 2011 violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. However, the ruling didn’t go so far as deeming all roadblocks to be unconstitutional.

As Daily Report details, the case involved a woman who stopped at a roadblock that police officers had set up in Fulton County on July 4, 2011. The woman admitted that she had consumed alcohol, and the officers administered a breath test and field sobriety tests that determined the she was impaired. 

After the woman was charged with DUI, her lawyer attempted to suppress the evidence that was gathered during the checkpoint, arguing that it was an unlawful stop. A Fulton County State Court judge denied the motion to suppress the evidence, and the woman was convicted.

However, the woman appealed the conviction, and the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the evidence gathered at the roadblock should, indeed, have been suppressed because the state failed to prove that the roadblock met all of the requirements set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court and applied by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Namely, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the state did not show that the there was a purpose for the checkpoint, other than just general crime control.

The appellate court explained that case law requires “an examination of the policy purpose of the checkpoints, viewed at the programmatic level, to ensure that an agency's checkpoints are established primarily for a lawful and focused purpose like traffic safety rather than to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing."

Suitable examples include keeping unlicensed drivers from using the roads or stopping illegal immigrants near the border, the state Supreme Court has previously ruled.

So, while this case doesn’t mean that checkpoints can no longer be conducted in Georgia, it does remind the state that police must have proper reasoning for doing so. And if they don’t follow this requirement and others, arrests conducted during these checkpoints can be successfully challenged.

It also reminds drivers that challenging a DUI can be a worthwhile thing to do.