Ga. Supreme Court Throws out Warrantless Blood Test Case

The Georgia Supreme Court has thrown out the DUI conviction of a Gwinnett driver whose blood was drawn without a search warrant. The state’s highest court released its opinion on the case stemming from the Sept. 22, 2012, arrest of John Cletus Williams, who was pulled over after driving erratically on Dacula’s Indian Shoals Road. Blood tests revealed that Williams had been under the influence of “two and a half times the normal therapeutic range” of the prescription drug Xanax, as well as oxycodone and butalbitol. A Gwinnett County judge ultimately found Williams guilty of driving under the influence and sentenced him to 30 days in jail. The conviction was appealed, however, on the basis that search warrant was not obtained for Williams’ blood. In its unanimous opinion, written by Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines, the Supreme Court argued that Williams did not provide “actual consent” to having his blood tested.

Do Cameras Violate Ohio's Constitution?

A Southwest Ohio judge has ruled that new restrictions on traffic cameras violate the state's constitution, granting the city of Dayton a permanent order blocking them. Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara Gorman says rules such as requiring police officers to be present when cameras are used violate the Ohio municipalities' "home rule" powers. She says the law passed late last year tells local governments how to allocate their law enforcement personnel. A spokesman says the Ohio attorney general's office will appeal. It's the second ruling against the restrictions that took effect last month. A Lucas County judge earlier granted a preliminary injunction sought by Toledo blocking the law. Dayton and Akron have continued using photo enforcement without officers present, while other cities halted use pending the outcome of various lawsuits.

Florida Judges say Red-Light Camera Program Violates State Law

Two Florida judges dismissed 24,000 red-light-camera on March 16, 2015 tickets from nearly every city in Broward county, finding that they were not issued as required by state statute. “We made the argument that the program was an improper delegation of police power because the videos were being sent out of state for employees of American Traffic Solutions to do the screening,” attorney Ted Hollander of Ticket Clinic told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, adding: “You can’t enforce one law and break another, which is what these cities have been doing for the better part of four years now.” Workers at Arizona-based ATS screened the photos taken by red-light cameras, then returned them to local police for actual tickets to be issued, the newspaper explains. However, this procedure violated state law, “in that the city’s representative does not actually create or issue the Uniform Traffic Citation,” says a court order issued Monday concerning Fort Lauderdale, reports WPLG. Municipal officials throughout Broward County reportedly are working on revising procedures to get a green light on continuing to issue $264 red-light tickets.

Circumstantial Evidence Allowed in DUI Cases

In a ruling originating out of Orange County, California on April 6, 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled that circumstantial evidence such as an officer’s observations can be used to show a motorist had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit. The case began with Ashley Jourdan Coffey suing the state Department of Motor Vehicles, which suspended her driving privileges after she pleaded guilty to a “wet reckless” charge. Coffey was arrested Nov. 13, 2011, about 1:30 a.m., after an officer spotted her swerving while southbound on the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway. The officer concluded Coffey was drunk based on her red eyes, a strong odor of alcohol and her difficulty with field sobriety tests, according to the high court’s ruling.

Call for Article Submissions!!!

Trends in State Courts is an annual, peer-reviewed publication that highlights innovative practices in critical areas that are of interest to courts, and often serves as a guide for developing new initiatives and programs, and informing and supporting policy decisions. Trends is the only publication of its kind and enjoys a wide circulation among the state court community. It is distributed in hard copy and electronically. Submission for the monthly online version of Trends are welcomed. Please email abstracts of no more than 500 words to Deborah Smith at dsmith@ncsc.org for consideration. Visit the Trends in State Courts website at www.ncsc.org/trends 

NCSC Traffic Resource Center

The Traffic Resource Center is a cooperative effort between the Department of Transportation and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to establish a resource for judges, court administrators, court clerks, and other court staff on issues related to traffic adjudication. It is an integrated clearinghouse of information as well as a training and technical assistance resource to improve court decision-making and processing of traffic cases involving impaired driving, drugged driving, distracted driving, and commercial driving. The purpose of the Traffic Resource Center website is to provide a useful, ready reference for judges new to the bench or recently assigned to traffic cases, who may need quick access to accurate and timely information until they can receive more formal, structured education.

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