Articles Posted in Drunk Driving

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AAA Helps Georgians Avoid Drunk Driving 

The American Automobile Association safety arm is very busy this time of year. The Fourth of July weekend is an important one for road travel and many happy celebrations of our nation’s freedoms. One of the more significant things about this holiday is the concern about drunk driving and highway safety. So much so, the AAA wants Georgia residents to know that they should not drink and drive … and to avoid that they will provide a ride, for free through July 5, 2017. Yes, for free.

The AAA calls this program Tow to Go and it is available on other holidays and in a few other states as well. It is completely confidential so that those using it do not have to be concerned about their privacy and a need for a ride. If folks have had more to drink than would enable them to drive safely, all that is needed is a phone to call for a FREE ride. You don’t have to be a AAA member to use this service. The telephone number for the free ride is 855-286-9246 — a tow truck will provide a ride as long as it is within 10 miles of the location pick up and is a home or other safe location. The program is co-sponsored by Budweiser and the Safety Foundation arm of the AAA.

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Drunk Driving Crash Statistics are Sobering 

It is a fact of American life that every two minutes, someone is hurt in drunk driving crash. When we read a statistic like that, it is something we need to take a moment to absorb. We grieve the loss of life in these tragic drunk driving crashes which have too often taken lives of Georgians. One of the worst such crashes of late is one in which five lives were lost in a horrific crash this past weekend. Five people lost their lives in a wrong way crash on I-75 near Dayton, Ohio. The most recent information about this tragedy is that the driver who passed away in the crash, was driving with a suspended license and was allegedly intoxicated at the time of the crash. He may also have threatened to commit suicide that day and in the past.

The driver collided head on with an SUV and killed all those in that vehicle, a group of friends — three of whom were in a popular band together. He had ended up back on the road drunk only hours after being released for another drunk driving charge. Possibly suffering from severe depression after his brother’s death this past fall, he and his wife were estranged and he was threatening to find a way to end his life.

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DUI Picture 1A recent Georgia Supreme Court case involving the constitutional rights of those arrested for DUI has led to some interesting discussion and some legal maneuvering. In a Gwinnett County trial court criminal case, the defendant Mr. Williams was convicted of a DUI related to drug use. At the time of his arrest, his blood was tested by the authorities without a search warrant. The defendant sought to suppress the blood test evidence based on the lack of a search warrant under both the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and a similar provision of the Georgia Constitution. In addition, the defendant asserted that the Georgia statute, Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-5-55,  which allows for implied consent to testing when drivers take the roads, is unconstitutional as applied in his case. He argued that his consent was not voluntary. The trial court denied his arguments and allowed the results of the test into evidence.

However, the Georgia Supreme Court found that the defendant’s arguments on this issue were meritorious and sent the case back to the trial court to reconsider the defendant’s motion to suppress. Under the Georgia law, if a suspected DUI driver fails to give voluntary consent to being tested, which is essentially waiving his or her right to require authorities to secure a warrant, authorities are then permitted to suspend a driver’s license for one year. The question that the Georgia Supreme Court reviewed was whether this essentially amounts to an involuntary consent, rather than a voluntary one.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DrunkDriver3.jpgFor decades, we have known that excessive alcohol and driving are not a good combination. After many years of involvement in Georgia Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, I am all too aware that the consequences of drinking and driving are not only inherently dangerous, but unpredictable. Those who have been convicted of crimes related to DUI and are serving sentences in prison for injuring or killing others on the road, will likely tell you that if they had to do it over again they would have found another way to get home from that party, from that bar from that gathering with friends where they had “a little too much.” Those who have been convicted and who present their stories to audiences, such as high school students, note that the first thing to go is judgment.

That result was recently evidenced in Cobb County when a teen driver attended a party and ended up driving on the wrong side of the road, causing serious injury to two people. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the teen hit another vehicle head on while driving in the opposite lane of traffic. The teen is lucky in one sense. Those injured in the other vehicle will survive their injuries, although medical intervention was required due to broken bones and other injuries. The young driver herself needed some medical treatment. The allegedly drunk driver has now been charged with felonies, including two counts of serious injury by vehicle and related crimes. This crime is codified at the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-394.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DrunkDriver3.jpgRecently, two incidents occurred in the Atlanta area involving allegations that the drivers involved were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of these involved the death of another driver. The other involved a school bus driver who is now facing allegations of DUI and endangerment of children. Some parents learned of this incident weeks after it occurred and are not pleased that it has taken so long for this incident to be reported to them. As a long-standing contributor to Georgia MADD and former board and and steering committee member, I cannot say enough about the deleterious impact of mixing alcohol or drugs and driving. When we can open the newspaper and find two such recent incidents in the Atlanta area, it causes me to consider once again at the statistics on what that picture looks like across America on any given day, week or month. More on this in a moment, but first what we know about these two incidents.

In one of these incidents, a man was killed in Marietta when he was driving on a local road in a vintage vehicle. His 1920’s era Model A Ford was struck and traveled into and rolled over into oncoming traffic. The Model A driver was killed and his passengers injured in this tragic crash. The other driver, a woman from Sandy Springs, has been charged with a second degree vehicular homicide which is a misdemeanor charge in Georgia. This charge was made under Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393. She voluntarily went to the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office to face these charges and was released on bail. She was also charged with other violations which indicate that she was believed to have been following too closely and failing to exercise due care.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000003411145XSmall.jpgIf you have any doubts about whether your infants or children are properly restrained in your vehicles, the recent death of a baby in Smyra hopefully will prompt you to make sure they are. Later, we will share with you how you can do this at no charge. But first we want to express our sympathies to the family of a baby girl who has lost her life after a car crash. Several people, including other children, were injured when a vehicle driven by the baby’s father was involved in a tragic car crash. Reports indicate that the dad driving the car is alleged to have been intoxicated at the time of the accident. His vehicle crossed into the opposing lane of traffic and crashed head on to an oncoming vehicle whose driver has been hospitalized at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, along with the baby’s mother.

The Cobb County family is now dealing with not only the death of the infant, but injuries to at least two other children and three adults traveling in the vehicle. The infant was not properly restrained in her car seat and the other children were not wearing seat belts or sitting in booster seats. The other children have been under medical care since the late-night crash and are anticipated to recover from their injuries. The father has been charged with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. It is quite possible as we have reported in other situations that he could be charged with an enhancement that involves child endangerment under Official Code of Georgia Annotated sections 40-6-391(a) and (l).

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000003411145XSmall.jpgThe Rockdale County sheriff’s office has suffered a blow early in this new year after one of their deputies has been arrested while off duty. She has now resigned from her position. The basis for the arrest involves allegations that she was driving under the influence of alcohol which is alleged to have caused a crash that resulted in injuries to two others traveling with her. Another more minor charge against her is failure to maintain her lane. Apparently the vehicle she was driving left the road and hit some trees. Sometimes when an accident involves local law enforcement, the local authorities will request the Georgia State Patrol to get involved to ensure the investigation is neutral and unbiased. That is what happened here. The injured passengers went to an Atlanta facility for medical support. Those involved have said they are grateful that there were no fatal injuries involved.

In general, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-391 prohibits driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are increased penalties for repeated convictions of this crime. Additionally, punishment for crimes involving the endangerment of children while driving a vehicle under the influence are governed by Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 16-12-1 (d).

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000003411145XSmall.jpgLast week, a city truck driven by a city worker overturned on I-75 and a passenger in the truck was killed. The deceased passenger was also a city employee. Now it has been determined that the driver had allegedly been drinking and will likely be charged criminally. Although Atlanta has an official policy that prohibits the use of drugs or alcohol on the job, this fatal crash apparently has brought on an internal investigation to determine just what might have gone wrong. Random tests of employees may not be sufficient to have every incident managed and avoid tragedy like the one that happened recently.

We have shared in prior posts that our law in Georgia includes varying degrees of severity when a person drives a vehicle and causes a death. It is reported that in the I-75 fatal crash, the Atlanta city employee is likely to face one of the most severe of these charges, which is first degree homicide by vehicle. Homicide by vehicle is found at Official Code of Georgia section 40-6-393. If convicted for a charge under these provisions, the prison term is three years to fifteen years. He is also likely to be charged with another serious charge of driving under the influence.

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sobriety check pointOne of the things many of us take for granted is that when we have a disabled vehicle, others on the road will take greater care and avoid hitting us. But what happens when drivers are either under the influence or do not anticipate a road condition that is unexpected? This is part of what we need to do as drivers, expect the unexpected and slow down depending on road conditions. In my work as an Atlanta accident injury lawyer, I have seen the terrible impact of drinking and driving. I have had the privilege of serving on the Board and Steering Committee for Georgia Mothers Against Drunk Driving and have supported the organization through my law firm.

Unfortunately, a recent local example of drinking and driving came to my attention as I read with sadness that an alleged drunk driver slammed into a disabled vehicle killing a Cobb County man. He was stalled on the I-285 westbound ramp from I-75 north in Clayton County. His vehicle was struck from behind by a cargo van that was driven by the alleged drunk driver. According to reports, charges are now pending both against the driver and a passenger of the van, both of whom are alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has worked very hard to reduce the destructive impact of drunk driving in America and has helped to lower the numbers of drunk drivers on our roads. They note that we take “233 billion trips in cars each year,” but that one in every two thousand trips involve drivers who have been drinking and are under the influence of alcohol. Shockingly, just about one of every three deaths on our roads involves drunk driving which shows just how deadly drinking and driving is on our streets and highways.

All the statistics should give us pause. Difficult to imagine, but the fact is that on average drunk driving kills someone on America once an hour. Yes, once an hour. Think about this — nearly 10,000 people in our country die on the roads every year. Beyond the tragedy of preventable deaths, the facts also reveal that every 90 seconds someone is injured due to drunk driving. And a staggering number of these deaths, injuries and accidents in general are caused by those who have engaged in this bad behavior previously.

When you are on the road, you are most likely driving along with a drunk driver. Sometimes we see them weaving or driving erratically and we call 911 to report this. It is very important to contact authorities if you observe a driver that seems impaired.

Removing these drivers from the road is getting easier … ignition interlocks for drunk driving offenders can now help stop these drivers from ever getting on the roads. Let’s work together to avoid this dangerous and deadly behavior.

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Thumbnail image for DrunkDriver3.jpgLast month we posted about a tragic accident that has left a college student non-responsive and still hospitalized. The alleged driver that critically injured her as she walked home from a friend’s birthday party has now been arrested and bond has been set by the court. He is ordered to wear and ankle bracelet while he awaits trial. The accusations against the driver are those I have often seen in cases such as this in my work as a Gwinnett County car accident lawyer and are covered under several provisions of Georgia law.

One of the primary issues in this case is the condition of the driver at the time he allegedly struck the young woman. The young man who was driving the pick up truck that allegedly struck her, is also alleged to have been driving drunk and is charged with DUi. According to reports, he was booked at the Athens-Clarke County Jail and is also charged with, among other charges, felony hit-and-run and serious injury by motor vehicle. These two crimes are also quite serious.

Under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-270, “[t]he driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of any person or in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident” or as close to the accident as possible. After providing identifying information, the driver also must provide registration information of the vehicle he or she is driving.

Drivers are also mandated by this provision to “[r]ender to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the transporting, or the making of arrangements for the transporting, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such transporting is requested by the injured person. It is also required that the driver make reasonable efforts to “ensure that emergency medical services and local law enforcement are contacted for the purpose of reporting the accident and making a request for assistance.”

The provision also provides for a felony if the accidents is the cause of death or serious injury to others involved. That is what the charge involves in the Athens tragedy.

The driver in this case is also charged with the crime of serious injury by vehicle which is covered under a separate code section Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-394 states that “[w]hoever, without malice, shall cause 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 … shall be guilty of the crime of serious injury by vehicle.” A conviction on this charge is a felony. The person found guilty of this charge can be imprisoned for no less than one year, nor more than 15 years.

The victim in this accident is making some progress, but is still not responsive. She is breathing on her own and has some body movement which is a very hopeful sign.

This case reminds us all of the needless tragedy that can result from drinking and driving and the wrongful conduct involved in hit and run. This accident has tragically damaged two young people’s lives, the young man that allegedly drove the pick up truck and the young woman whose future is in the balance at an Athens hospital.

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