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DUI cases in jeopardy after Richmond County deputy admits falsifying readings

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The forced resignation of a deputy assigned to the DUI task force could affect the prosecution of hundreds of cases, according to those in the legal community.

Erik Norman  Special
Special
Erik Norman


Erik Norman faced mandatory resignation from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 19 after a prosecutor reported that Norman told her he had falsified readings from a hand-held alcohol-testing device.

Norman told the department’s internal affairs division that he had done it only “once or twice” but couldn’t recall exactly which cases were involved.

Norman’s credibility is gone now, no matter how many times he falsified readings, said Augusta attorney Robert “Bo” Hunter, who prosecuted drunken driving cases as the Richmond County State Court solicitor from 1988 to 1996.

“He’s created a shadow of a doubt by falsifying evidence,” Hunter said. The only question a defense attorney would need to ask is: “Did you falsify other results?”

Even worse, Hunter said, is that there probably were people charged with driving under the influence who shouldn’t have been.

Norman, hired as a jailer in July 2002, was transferred to the DUI task force in March 2009. An accurate count of his DUI convictions cannot be made through court records, but during his time on the task force, he arrested an estimated 250 to 400 people.

State Court Solicitor Charles Evans said his office has 62 pending DUI cases in which Norman was the arresting officer. Each will have to be judged on its merits to determine whether to continue prosecuting them as DUIs. If necessary, the office will bring in Norman as a trial witness, Evans said.

The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Coun­cil is investigating to determine whether Norman can keep his certification, said Ryan Powell, its director of operations. Unless he is arrested on felony charges or his certification is suspended, Norman is free to work as an officer, Powell said.

Falsifying evidence is a felony – making false statements – but prosecuting Norman for it would be difficult, District Attorney Ashley Wright said. A prosecutor would have to prove in which case Norman falsified the results, and there is no way to uncover those cases without Norman’s admission. He claimed he didn’t know which cases were falsified.

Wright estimated her office has about a dozen pending cases in which Norman was the arresting officer.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he thought Norman was a good officer and cannot understand why he would alter a test that isn’t admissible in court.

Officers on the street can use the Alco-Sensor, a hand-held device that provides a fairly accurate reading, Powell said.

The real test that is admissible in court is the Intoxilyzer 5000, a medical test done at the station that is “extremely accurate,” Powell said. The people who run the tests have to be certified by the Georgia Bureau of Investi­gation. The Intoxilyzer machine is examined regularly to ensure its readings are accurate.

Though the results of Alco-Sensor aren’t admissible at trial, judges consider them when deciding whether to accept a plea deal, how much time someone will spend in jail, and whether extra conditions for probation are needed, Hunter said.

State Court Judge Da­vid Watkins said Alco-Sensor results are like polygraph results in that while not admissible during a trial, they are useful tools.

If a judge believes a person could have a problem with alcohol, in-patient or out-patient evaluation can be ordered – at the person’s expense. A judge can also order electronic alcohol monitoring that commands a $208 startup fee and costs $360 a month. A device that prohibits a person’s vehicle from operating if it detects alcohol costs $132 a month.

Those fees would be on top of the minimum $651 fine and surcharge for a first offense DUI, $528 probation fee, $280 for driving school and $210 fee for the state to reinstate a driver’s license.

Watkins said he doesn’t look forward to an avalanche of challenges from people arrested by Norman, but it would serve a greater good.

Comments (56)

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Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/20/11 - 01:59 pm
0
0

No it isn't allhans. For

No it isn't allhans. For someone that went to jail for something they didn't do.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 11/20/11 - 02:04 pm
0
0

You are correct Patty.

You are correct Patty. Incidents like this and a couple I am familiar with concerning friends and family where the cops lied to make an arrest is why I fully support EVERY arrest being documented on video. (in the cases to which I refer the cameras were conveniently out of order whne the attorney requested video of the arrest, and both cases were eventually pled down because of the questionable police work).

With today's miniature and inexpensive technology , there is no reason for every LEO out there not to have video capability on their person and in the vehicle. No video, no case in those instances where a case is made against someone based on what the police claimed to see.

Some of them do lie, and it is a shame that they cast a shadow over all of the good guys who do the right thing day in and day out. Cameras would actually benefit and protect those who do the right thing againt false accusations from the suspects.

mable8
2
Points
mable8 11/20/11 - 02:06 pm
0
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"Erik Norman faced mandatory

"Erik Norman faced mandatory resignation from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 19 after a prosecutor reported that Norman told her he had falsified readings from a hand-held alcohol-testing device...Falsifying evidence is a felony – making false statements – but prosecuting Norman for it would be difficult, District Attorney Ashley Wright said. A prosecutor would have to prove in which case Norman falsified the results, and there is no way to uncover those cases without Norman’s admission. He claimed he didn’t know which cases were falsified." Someone should remind Ashley Wright that as long as there is an admission to a crime, then a crime was committed....because he has selective memory or self-induced amnesia, every case he was involved in are all suspect and should have no bearing on whether or not charges will be filed. Hope someone else will run for DA next election.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/20/11 - 02:15 pm
0
0

I agree Mable, but I feel

I agree Mable, but I feel strongly that the DA here wouldn't pursue any charges against him, even with a confession. Seems that's the way things work in RC.

DoggieMom
201
Points
DoggieMom 11/20/11 - 04:56 pm
0
0

It makes you wonder how many

It makes you wonder how many people had their lives ruined based on a lie? Someone's idęa for video of All arrests is a good one.

The presence of a video might have made a difference in that recent case where a woman was caught red-handed drinking & driving, with 3 small children in the vehicle. The cop wasn't summoned to court, so Judge Annis let this person off with a $250 fine. I don't think a repeat offender like that should have a driver's license, or have access to a car.
Who will get killed the next time this repeat offender decides to drive drunk again? The surviving relatives should be allowed to sue Judge Annis for not enforcing the law.

It makes you wonder how many dishonest cops and judges are in this state??

Peach29
0
Points
Peach29 11/20/11 - 06:50 pm
0
0

This is just sad....he sould

This is just sad....he sould be prosecuted. Dont see why it would be hard to do so because he admitted to falsifying evidence. (word of mouth is best evidence) I wonder how many more deputies have falsified documents?hmmm and taxpayers pay for this?

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/20/11 - 06:52 pm
0
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Doggiemom said....'It makes

Doggiemom said....'It makes you wonder how many dishonest cops and judges are in this state??'
Probably more than you will ever know. It happens more often than people think.

jackrussell
219
Points
jackrussell 11/20/11 - 07:39 pm
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The alcosensor is not

The alcosensor is not admissable in court. It is used to corroborate what the officer already knows from having given field tests (which are the same today as they were 10-20 years ago, not made more difficult each years as one poster stated.) It is also useful in determining what test the officer should request. If the person performs horribly on field tests but registers no or very low alcohol, then the officer needs to consider that there are drugs, legal or illegal, at work and should obtain a blood/urine test instead of the breath test; as the breath test measures ONLY alcohol. The State breath test is the Intoxilyzer5000. The officer CANNOT change/alter those results.
Those of you knocking all cops are just wrong. As in any profession, there are some bad apples. There are bad doctors, teachers, priests, lawyers, coaches, mechanics, etc. Shame on you for stating that all police officers are bad based on the actions of this one. A majority of cops are integral, hardworking and compassionate. They do not write you tickets or make arrests just for "kicks and giggles." It is their job to uphold the law. If you don't like it, next time you get robbed, burglarized, or your home alarm goes off, handle it yourself.

skyfox
0
Points
skyfox 11/20/11 - 09:09 pm
0
0

Patty-P your wrong on this

Patty-P your wrong on this one "For someone that went to jail for something they didn't do." how do you know they didn't do it? Its the Judge that makes the call based on evidence... which includes video from the dash cam and hard evidence from something like intoxilyzer 5000 with scientific results. a DUI case is not easy to prove unless you have hard evidence not just a statement from the officer or a read out from a machine that lets the officer know that alcohol is in the persons system. someone that is a Diabetic also acts and sometimes smells like they are drunk. the hand held device is to let the officer know yes or no the person does not have alcohol in the persons system. i know i have left out alot of what i wanted to say but as most people they surf the web and im typing from my cellphone. with that said ask yourself have you done everything in your life right... people learn from there errors...even the ones that have been arrested for DUI's im sure Erik has saved a life of one of your loved ones... think about it people police dont arrest people for S*(&* and giggles... i know i was former military and Police Officer...

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 11/20/11 - 09:31 pm
0
0

skyfox, thank you for your

skyfox, thank you for your public service. I need to disagree with your next to last sentence though; SOME cops do like to play Rambo. They give a bad name to the rest.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/20/11 - 09:48 pm
0
0

Well skyfox, then perhaps

Well skyfox, then perhaps Sheriff Strength shouldn't have jumped the gun. They should give him his job back. No harm done. Those folks probably deserved to be lied on.
My only question skyfox is what was he accomplishing by fudging the alcosensor results?

skyfox
0
Points
skyfox 11/21/11 - 12:27 am
0
0

Patty-P i think your right i

Patty-P i think your right i think that the Sheriff does jump the gun alot to make himself look good but hey thats what politicians do in most cases when the heat is on. As far as his job im sure he would not want to work for Richmond Co. again...and i don't believe anyone should be lied on. i also don't know all the details and only the officer knows them but alot of times people only hear one side of the story and its the details they leave out thats prob the important ones. I'm not sure if the officer lied because the alcosensor results could not be used as evidence in court. maybe it would help the DA work out a deal with the subject but its not evidence. but i will say this Richmond Co DUI and other Special Operations have to meet a certain number of arrest with equipment that is not upto par and maybe the officer's alcosensor was off a few points and he made up for it. That would be a good reason for him to say something about it to the DA in a conversation. From what i have read on the oneside of the story the officer said something to the DA and has not tried to lie about it. he was open about it... so just saying i would love to know the otherside of the story before i made up my mind. i do feel people mess up from time to time and i would like to feel that our police officers are in the right and i will back them till i know 100% they where wrong. Our officers do get the short end of the stick most of the time and they get no respect. Vito your right that some officers think they are Rambo but thats with any job you come across... Like my mailman or the Pastor at my old church lol...

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/21/11 - 05:40 am
0
0

skyfox....I understand

skyfox....I understand completely what you are saying. It is not good if the officers are working with faulty equipment. But it's not good to try to compensate for bad equipment by altering it either. One of the reasons the test is not allowed in court is because it is not reliable or accurate, even when it has been calibrated. As for Sheriff Strength, I'm sure he is doing what he feels is the right thing to do. If the officer admitted to a prosecutor that he fudged the results, no matter the reason, it completely changes the whole case (and future cases), even if the person was DUI. Sheriff Strength has to act on that accusation and he felt it was best to ask the officer for a resignation. The reason is because the officers integrity (period) is now in question. One would wonder if he lied about any other arrests as well. The best thing to do is to get the faulty equipment checked or fixed and speak with a supervisor about his concerns. I'm sure over 9 years Mr. Norman has done some good things as an officer, and I hope that he learns from this situation and moves on.

LostatSRS
15
Points
LostatSRS 11/21/11 - 06:55 am
0
0

This situation brings focus

This situation brings focus to the basic conflict of interest caused by law enforcement calibrating and operating the device that is providing a measurement. In SC the person can demand a blood test which requires transport to a medical facility, don’t know what GA law states. Medical people should be conducting all tests, not some cop with an attitude and maybe not even a HS diploma. And in the world of law enforcement when a cop is fired from one department he just moves to the next county/state.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 11/21/11 - 11:12 am
0
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I "think" that in some

I "think" that in some counties your blood is collected at the jail by a technician and sent to the state lab. Virtually every hospital lab runs ETOH as a diagnostic test for medical purposes, but these do not meet the criteria for criminal evidence. However, the technologist will collect a legal BAC sample to be sent to the crime lab for analysis, and some labs like MCG and University have (or did have) Mass Spectrometers capable of rendering a court admissible result.

Little Lamb
40208
Points
Little Lamb 11/21/11 - 11:27 am
0
0

Patty-P posted, “. . .

Patty-P posted, “. . . perhaps he lied on the physical field testing too.”

Yes, and perhaps others, too. It would seem that the best strategy if pulled over on suspicion (or even after an accident) would be to refuse the breathalyzer, not submit to physical field testing (standing on one foot while touching nose, walking straight line, etc.), and not submit to blood alcohol testing in the station or clinic. Let them make their case some other way.

We learned from the Ben Harbin case, however, that if you refuse the blood alcohol test in the station or clinic, you are subject to losing your drivers license for a period of time. That's seriously inconvenient. But Ben's lawyer had a trick up his sleeve that fooled the arresting officer into not showing up for the hearing. Voilà! Ben got his license back.

Riverman1
70698
Points
Riverman1 11/21/11 - 11:35 am
0
0

An important point is the

An important point is the ADA is the one who found out about the falsified tests. The Sheriff had no choice in the matter. Norman told her, possibly after she had asked hard questions about a test, that he had falsified some tests if the people had attitudes. It could be he was just trying to show his importance to the ADA thinking she was one of the boys who would play along.

Right then and there, he was breaking Georgia law by admitting to giving false statements to the DA's office in the past. Keep in mind the Alcosensor test results were also often used at sentencing even though they were not admissable as evidence.

Thus someone who had a below limit alchohol level on the Intoxilyzer, could still be charge if the officer said the person was driving funny and gave the Alcosensor results as being falsely high. The prosecutor would think the the person had time to sober up before the official test.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/21/11 - 12:52 pm
0
0

You are right Riverman.

You are right Riverman.

ceanf
0
Points
ceanf 11/21/11 - 01:30 pm
0
0

@myfather15 your claim that

@myfather15

your claim that 'the horizontal gaze nystagmus is the scientific test which should give the officer the most accurate assessment of the suspects blood alcohol level' is absolutely wrong. there is NO way to correlate horizontal nystagmus to a given blood alcohol level. in addition, horizontal nystgamus is not caused only by alcohol consumption. there are medical conditions along with numerous other drugs, both illicit and legal, that can cause horizontal nystagmus. not to mention that some people naturally have some level of horizontal nystagmus. so your claim that it is an officer's best and most accurate tool to determine someone's BAC is ludicrous and bunk. the eye nystgmus test is subjective and does nothing to prove that a person has any alcohol in their system at all. it is not, and will never be a more accurate test for BAC than a hand held breathalyzer. it is disconcerting that you have 15 years of experience in law enforcement and do not know any of this. but your claims are clearly not 'a matter of fact' in any sense of the phrase.

lastly, just a tip to everyone out there... never, ever, take a breathalyzer test OR a sobriety test... EVER. drunk or sober, you are just giving the state evidence against you, and you have a right to talk to your lawyer before you decide to perform any of these tests. and taking the tests are not going to give you any brownie points in court, no matter how much the arresting officer tries to convince you otherwise. the reality is, without a breathalyzer and/or sobriety test, a prosecutor will have very little evidence beyond the officers word, that a DUI actually occurred.

ceanf
0
Points
ceanf 11/21/11 - 01:34 pm
0
0

@Vito45 sorry, vito, but

@Vito45

sorry, vito, but there is no such thing as a 'good' cop being overshadowed by the actions of bad ones. because every single 'good' police officer has seen a 'bad' police officer do something immoral, unethical or unlawful, and have done nothing about it out of 'professional courtesy' and whatever other terms they use when they hold LEOs to a different set of laws and standards than the rest of us. and that, vito, makes these so called 'good' officers no better in my book as the ones you see as 'bad'.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/21/11 - 01:42 pm
0
0

ceanf...I agree with your

ceanf...I agree with your post also. Cases like this are part of the reason why some people have a distrust for law enforcement. I think Sheriff Strength did the right thing and did not brush it under the rug.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 11/21/11 - 01:51 pm
0
0

ceanf, I do understand your

ceanf, I do understand your sentiment, and your observation is why I have such a jaundiced view of law enforcement anymore myself. However, I still believe in the basic goodness of most LEO's even though they may have an understandable bias towards "their own". I would like to think that most would expose their comrades if they were blatantly dirty. Maybe I'm living in La-La land, but I've known some people in law enforcement that I trust. I've seen some on this board I would trust just by the way they handle themselves here; Waymore is the first to come to mind. I truly believe he is honest and committed to treating people fairly.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/21/11 - 03:45 pm
0
0

Vito....I know some cops that

Vito....I know some cops that are good at what they do and are honest. But there are a few bad apples in the bunch. I like asitisinaugusta - his posts lead me to believe he is dedicated.

RogueKnight
201
Points
RogueKnight 11/21/11 - 05:01 pm
0
0

Maybe the reason he falsified

Maybe the reason he falsified an Alco-sensor test result is because the subject he pulled over was giving him a hard time but wasn't registering high enough on the Alco-sensor to warrant taking the subject downtown for the Intoxelyzer test. Regardless, it makes Norman sound vindictive and gives the rest of the honest cops a black eye. Abuse of power - happens a lot when you give small minded people a little authority over others.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/21/11 - 05:28 pm
0
0

jackrussell...' It is their

jackrussell...' It is their job to uphold the law. If you don't like it, next time you get robbed, burglarized, or your home alarm goes off, handle it yourself.'
I've seen instances where cops have completely let drug dealers and burglars off the hook. More than once. Not all of them uphold the law as they should. The fact that you would make a statement 'handle it yourself' justifies the belief that some cops are vindicative. How could YOU say something like THAT?

Riverman1
70698
Points
Riverman1 11/21/11 - 08:29 pm
0
0

Look, I've got no problems

Look, I've got no problems with lots of borderline police actions if the person deserves it. A friend of mine said he just slaps them up beside the head, but doesn't arrest them. Heh, I kind of like that. But for this cop to use his techinque of falsifying test results to have serious charges brought against people that lands them in jail is flat out wrong. He deserves to be charged.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 11/21/11 - 09:24 pm
0
0

I agree River. Falsifying a

I agree River. Falsifying a police report is criminal. I don't care what the reason is.

dms10102001
0
Points
dms10102001 11/23/11 - 03:30 pm
0
0

Fire this guy and never ever

Fire this guy and never ever let him wear a badge in this state again. Don't be like one of your neighboring counties and let officers who got caught doing illegal activities continue to serve on the force.

browneyesforever
0
Points
browneyesforever 11/26/11 - 10:28 am
0
0

This Officer did wrong, he

This Officer did wrong, he committed a felony crime, I think he made the statement, 'He didn't know which test he lied about, I think he admitted to his wrong doing. I feel sorry for the peoples that had to pay money or serve time in jail because of his lies. I wonder will he serve time for his felony crime. I'm not attacking the RCSD but if some committes a crime, no matter where they work, they should prosecuted.

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