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Richmond County Sheriff's Office to continue DUI enforcement without Operation Thunder

Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 8:46 PM
Last updated Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 10:39 AM
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Operation Thunder has ended, but motorists should still expect the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to make its presence known on New Year’s Eve.

Dec. 13 and 14 marked the final follow-up weekend of the 90-day initiative, which was created by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety with the purpose of cracking down on traffic violations to decrease fatalities.

The sheriff’s office, which received state funding for the program and four follow-up weekends, will no longer use outside agencies to help with DUI enforcement, Lt. Lewis Blanchard said.

“We’ll have some more of our own guys out on patrol,” he said. “(Operation Thunder) won’t be back for a few more years. Generally, a county will have to wait two or three years before bringing the initiative back unless there is a serious issue.”

Richmond County was coming off one of its worst years for traffic fatalities in 2012 with 42 total. By Operation Thunder’s end in December, deputies had responded to 23 road fatalities. None happened on a night Operation Thunder was in effect, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

In Operation Thunder’s final follow-up, the department strayed from the traditional DUI checkpoints in favor of “roving patrols,” said Lt. Ramone Lamkin, of the traffic division. These placed more officers on the streets paying close attention to drivers who appeared to be impaired.

The approach wasn’t as successful, Lamkin said, and he expects the department to bring back DUI checkpoints for New Year’s Eve.

“When you’re able to interact with every single driver, like at a checkpoint, you are more likely to catch the person who is driving impaired,” he said.

During last year’s patrol period for New Year’s celebrations, Dec. 28-Jan. 1, there were 694 crashes reported locally, resulting in 353 injuries and four deaths, according to Sgt. 1st Class Ritchie Howard of the Georgia State Patrol. In that time, 352 people were arrested for drunken driving by state troopers.

Law enforcement investigated 3,691 crashes statewide during that period, Howard said, resulting in 1,476 injuries and seven deaths.

SERVICES AVAILABLE

• Through Jan. 1, intoxicated drivers can call AAA to have a tow truck drive them and their vehicle to a safe location within 10 miles. Call (855) 286-9246 (2-TOW-2-GO).

• Bradford Health Services and Yellow Cab of Augusta are teaming up to offer free taxi rides to holiday drinkers. Through Dec. 31, staff and customers at bars, lounges and restaurants who are at least 21 can call (800) 333-1865 to schedule a pickup.

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Riverman1
83489
Points
Riverman1 12/29/13 - 10:49 pm
12
3
I back the RCSO in their

I back the RCSO in their efforts to get drunk drivers off the road, but I am opposed to DUI checkpoints because it infringes on our constitutional rights.

Little Lamb
45833
Points
Little Lamb 12/29/13 - 11:04 pm
3
10
New Strategy

How about posting undercover agents in bars on New Year's Eve? When an inebriated patron staggers out of the bar and puts his (or her) hands on the steering wheel in the parking lot, detain the drunk and then arrest the bartender.

That would be a different twist, wouldn't it?

corgimom
32162
Points
corgimom 12/29/13 - 11:15 pm
5
16
LL, they can't do that,

LL, they can't do that, that's entrapment. And no bar owner would stand for it, they'd be out of business in a week.

Like they can't sit out in the parking lot of the bars and wait for the people to pull out of the parking lot.

But if you put everybody through a checkpoint, that's fair, you aren't singling them out.

I still don't understand why people think it infringes on Constitutional rights, but whatever.

RunningMan
346
Points
RunningMan 12/29/13 - 11:48 pm
6
13
Great Plan

Keep drunk drivers off the road and make it safer for all of us. This is only an infringement to those upset they are being stopped for violating the law. The checkpoints are needed to enforce the laws and to make the roads safer for the public. What I like most of all, it targets everyone on the road and not just a specific group.

Little Lamb
45833
Points
Little Lamb 12/29/13 - 11:53 pm
5
3
Benefit

Plus, it encourages people to stay home on Friday and Saturday nights.

Riverman1
83489
Points
Riverman1 12/30/13 - 12:17 am
13
2
Sure It Is An Infringement

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 80s that DUI checkpoints were an infringement on constitutional rights, but it was a temporary measure necessary because of the drunk driving crisis. I say it's time to stop this temporary measure since it's admittedly an infringement on the Constitution. Should blocks of houses be searched at midnight because of illegal drug use? If you're doing nothing wrong, you shouldn't mind...right?

thauch12
6579
Points
thauch12 12/30/13 - 02:51 am
14
3
"Less successful" hahaha

My favorite quote from the article regarding having deputies on the road actually patrolling for truly impaired drivers/other crimes that don't generate as much revenue as DUIs: "The approach wasn’t as successful."

That statement is so revealing. Success is apparently measured by how many people they "catch" and how much revenue goes into coffers. Nevermind the fact they could have been less "successful" because there may have been less impaired drivers on the road to start with OR this all occurred at end of this witch hunt...

Let me be clear: I'm not advocating drunk driving. I just want to be able to go downtown, enjoy a beer or a glass of wine with my dinner, and not have to worry about being hassled by a cop on my way home. I don't think that's a ridiculous thing to ask.

nocnoc
42424
Points
nocnoc 12/30/13 - 08:07 am
7
4
Operation Rolling Taxpayers

If they were really after DUI drivers,
why not set up down the streets from bars
that would account of at least 1/2 of all DUI drivers.

Why setup Travel Checkpoints miles away on exit ramps and areas which tend to like such businesses?

Why allow DUI drivers to drive miles from the scene of where they became intoxicated?

Why allow DUI drivers to endanger 100's if not 1000's of people between the BAR and the Checkpoints?

Why do many suspect, DUI's are only a small part of the reason for the Travel checkpoints given the questions being asked?

Heck,
Why Not mandate every establishment selling drinks have a Breath Tester on location (cost $125 to $250)?
http://www.americanscreeningcorp.com/Alcohol-Testing-C17.aspx?mm_campaig...

OR these other common solutions.
https://www.google.com/search?q=Bar++breathalyzer.&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=...

The lack of going to the source (BARs) re-enforces my concerns about 4th and 5th amendment violations.

Besides how many 1000's of innocent travelers are stopped and delayed in their travels to catch the less than reported .0001% violations per car "Inspected"

BTW: Earlier in the year I though we were told this was only a 90 day event. Minus Masters Week, naturally because no one get drunk during Masters.

So how many times does this make this year for the Socialist style Travel checkpoints?

Riverman1
83489
Points
Riverman1 12/30/13 - 09:27 am
12
0
There does reach a point

There does reach a point where excessive checkpoints become so troublesome to the public they avoid the area even if they're not having a glass of wine with dinner.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/30/13 - 09:48 am
8
0
Operation Thunder has ended

The seal was broken. THis ain't over, just the beginning.

GiantsAllDay
9572
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/30/13 - 10:21 am
14
4
Only roll your window down

Only roll your window down 1/4". That's enough for the officer and you to communicate. If he tells you to roll it down all the way, don't do it, as you don't have to. Have a passenger video the encounter, if possible. Then politely ask the officer which section of the penal code are you suspected of violating. If he doesn't give you the section of the penal code you are suspected of violating, then say these words EXACTLY: "Officer, am I being detained or am I free to go?" Say this over and over until he answers one way or another. Remember, where you have been and where you are going is NONE of his business. In this situation, the cops are nothing more than a gang with badges and guns.

justthefacts
21698
Points
justthefacts 12/30/13 - 10:44 am
7
2
Fine

Play word games with the officer. You still have been delayed and inconvenienced. You may win the battle, but the war is lost.

GiantsAllDay
9572
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/30/13 - 10:47 am
9
5
I would like to propose

I would like to propose something that's maybe wild and crazy. EVERYONE in Augusta refuse to patronize ALL restaurants in town on weekends until Rolf from the Sound of Music and the rest of the Gestapo go away.

csraguy
2274
Points
csraguy 12/30/13 - 11:32 am
6
7
Correct Information

Checkpoints have their good and bad, as do most enforcement strategies. However, they are legal, a good deterrent and you should at least know the law vs. misinformation posted by some. The goal is to reduce accidents with injuries and fatalities which you can’t deny with a 50% decrease, they are somewhat effective.

The below answers are straight from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia - Traffic Safety Specalist Todd Hayes:

1) Are road safety checks constitutional based on Georgia law and the US Supreme Court? Yes. Both the Supreme Court of the United States (see City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U. S. 32 (2000) and Michigan Dep't of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U. S. 444 (1990)) and the Supreme Court of Georgia (see Lafontaine v. State, 269 Ga. 251 (1998)) have upheld the constitutionality of checkpoints.

2) May a police officer order you and any occupants from your vehicle at a traffic stop without any additional reason? Yes. The Supreme Court of the United States “recognized the inordinate risk confronting an officer as he approaches a person seated in an automobile” during a routine traffic stop in the case of Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977). That case cited a study (Bristow, “Police Officer Shootings--A Tactical Evaluation,” 54 J. Crim. L.C. & P.S. 93 (1963)) which concluded that approximately thirty percent (30%) of police shootings occurred when a police officer approached a suspect seated in an automobile. Therefore, the Court concluded that an officer may order someone stopped for a traffic violation to exit the vehicle. This is true regardless of whether the weather is unpleasant or that the officer does not have a clear reason for asking you to get out. When the officer asks you to “please step out of your car,” you have to do it.

3) May a police officer order you to roll down your car windows? Yes. If an officer can order you from your vehicle for officer safety without violating your rights, then the simple request of rolling down your windows is also reasonable and far less intrusive. Again, the risk facing the officer is a major factor in this decision. However, if you are unable to roll your windows down for some reason (i.e., they are broken or malfunctioning), simply explain this to the officer and be prepared to comply with his legal request for you to exit the vehicle should he or she ask.

4) May I be pulled over for attempting to avoid a road check? Yes. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed its long-standing rule that “abnormal or unusual actions taken to avoid a roadblock may give an officer a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity even when the evasive action is not illegal.” Blakely v. State, 316 Ga. App. 213, 216 (2012). Therefore, under Georgia law, a driver who takes evasive measures to avoid a roadblock provides law enforcement officers with reasonable articulable suspicion to believe that they are engaged in criminal activity.

5) Am I required to show my driver’s license at a safety checkpoint? Yes. Georgia law requires every licensed driver to “display his license upon the demand of a law enforcement officer.” O.C.G.A. § 40-5-29(b). Failure to do so permits officers to presume that: 1) you do not have a license on your person as required by O.C.G.A. § 40-5-29(a); and 2) you are driving without being licensed in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-5-20. Furthermore, repeated refusals to comply with an officer’s request for your license can rise to the level of criminal obstruction of the officer in the performance of his duties pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24(a), for which you can be lawfully arrested. In addition to your drivers’ license, officers may also lawfully require you to display proof of insurance pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-10. Failure to comply with these requests can lead to arrest, prosecution, and conviction (see Johnson v. State, 234 Ga. App. 218 (1998)). However, once you have complied with these requirements, you are not legally required to say anything more.

6) What happens if I don’t agree with the lawful requests of officers, such as showing my license or stepping out of my vehicle, or rolling my window completely down, etc.? A person is guilty of obstructing a law enforcement officer pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24(a) if the person willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official duties. Thus, continued refusal to obey lawful commands from an officer may result in your arrest for misdemeanor obstruction. In the event that your disobedience escalates to the point where you either threaten or perform a violent act upon the officer, the violation becomes a felony punishable by one to five years in prison. O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24(b).

my.voice
4801
Points
my.voice 12/30/13 - 11:49 am
5
3
Breathalyze everyone leaving

Breathalyze everyone leaving the bar.

justthefacts
21698
Points
justthefacts 12/30/13 - 12:12 pm
7
7
Funny

csraguy get thumbs down for posting the law. Is that the response of people who are peeved at being shown they don't know what they are talking about?

fatboyhog
1933
Points
fatboyhog 12/30/13 - 01:39 pm
3
4
Entrapment

What Little Lamb suggests is not entrapment. Nor is sitting in a parking lot watching a drunk get into a car and leave a bar. I wouldn't be wise to do the latter, for numerous reasons, but it's not entrapment. Arresting a bartender for serving an inebriated patron isn't a wise idea either, as it's not illegal to serve an inebriated person.

happychimer
17428
Points
happychimer 12/30/13 - 12:34 pm
1
8
Get all the drunks off the

Get all the drunks off the roads. Anyone who drinks and drives are just self centered know it alls who have no respect for safety of others. I have never had even one drink and drove, and don't intend to ever drink and drive.

Little Lamb
45833
Points
Little Lamb 12/30/13 - 12:56 pm
3
1
Thanks

Thanks for the information in your post, fatboyhog. I was wondering about Corgimom's assertion about entrapment. I always thought entrapment meant that a law enforcement officer actually enticed a person to violate the law in the presence of the officer with the intent of arresting the person.

As far as the bartender, I can see the point that a bartender can serve an inebriated person and still be obeying the law. But what about those cases we read about where a bartender is arrested? I guess the inebriated person has to actually go out and cause harm to another while inebriated before the bartender becomes liable.

Bizkit
31244
Points
Bizkit 12/30/13 - 02:33 pm
9
0
Dining and consuming any

Dining and consuming any alcohol at restaurants will soon be a thing of the past. No drinking and driving-period. Now you can still sit at home and get polluted, but although alcohol has a long history and one of the oldest drugs known to man it is being replaced by legally prescribed pharmaceuticals. You can take them and drive to your favorite restaurant and stumble in like Ozzie Osborn and enjoy a meal. Strange world ain't it?

Little Lamb
45833
Points
Little Lamb 12/30/13 - 02:56 pm
2
2
Lucky

Do you remember the story about the tragic crash where a man named Lucky Wade Jackson ran a red light and crashed into a vehicle, killing a young woman? He had just come from a bar, where the bartender served him several drinks. Here is the story:

Indicted

The story includes no mention of the bartender, though it does provide Jackson's blood alcohol measurement. It was quite high.

Are bartenders immune from prosecution in such cases?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/30/13 - 03:55 pm
5
1
I think there is fine line

I think there is fine line between conducting business and being negligent. I wouldn't consider anyone immune these days. You can be jacked-up for just about anything whether your responsibility or not.

GiantsAllDay
9572
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/30/13 - 03:59 pm
7
1
If you are a bartender, I

If you are a bartender, I don't think they can legally come after you for over serving a person. But believe me, the attorney for the family of the deceased can and will come after you--big time.

Riverman1
83489
Points
Riverman1 12/30/13 - 08:26 pm
6
1
Gone Too Far

CSRAGuy is a police officer I believe and I appreciate him posting what they have been told. Still I have to question the part about an officer being able to order you to get out of your car without reason. He said if it is a traffic stop, but a checkpoint is not a traffic stop. There was no reason to stop that particular vehicle. Are we actually at the point in this country where cars are randomly stopped and people told to get out without one bit of suspicion of any wrongdoing?

Having said that, there's no reason to be rude to an officer. They are playing with the hand dealt them. The courts have upheld the legality of checkpoints...for now. I haven't been stopped in one of these things in decades, but I would comply and tell him I understand he is doing his job, but also tell him I believe it violates the Constitution. Most police officers are conservatives and it's possible the officer may agree.

csraguy
2274
Points
csraguy 12/30/13 - 07:18 pm
4
0
Additional Clarification

River, you are correct regarding "ordering a person from a vehicle without giving a reason" not being permitted at a road check in the absence of any traffic violation, violation of the law or reasonable articulable suspicion. That does not extend to having someone roll their window down completely which is for officer safety. And, as I originally stated road checks have pros and cons to them but they have been very effective and are legal under our current laws.

As for those who say it is killing downtown or killing business, they can do a simple records request with the department of revenue or with the county for on premise alcohol consumption and will know that their assumptions are not valid.

As for bartenders, there is no specific law although it is possible to bring charges under other laws/code sections depending on the circumstances. Basically for Georgia, this is all covered under the dram shop laws which allows for law suits against the bartender or establishment. A plaintiff suing another person or entity under Georgia dram shop laws must prove the following:

•Alcohol was served to the patron by the bar, restaurant, alcohol retailer, or even a host at a private party. (Not handed to them by a 3rd party but directly to the individual.)

•There is evidence that the server of alcohol noticed or should have noticed that the patron was intoxicated when serving him with alcohol. (very hard to prove, especially since bartending certification & training such as TIPS is not required in Georgia.)

•There was also knowledge that the patron would soon be driving a motor vehicle when being served alcohol. (Even harder to prove.)

•The patron caused injuries or other damages.

Riverman1
83489
Points
Riverman1 12/30/13 - 08:29 pm
4
1
Thanks CSRA Guy

One more question, I've heard on the radio and read here and there that if a person is stopped at a DUI checkpoint and minimal alcohol is detected, below the limit, the individual is still not allowed to drive home and often charged. I understand a person below the limit can be charged if there are other factors such as poor driving or something. The TV reporter who was charged, even though she was below the limit comes to mind.

csraguy
2274
Points
csraguy 12/30/13 - 10:13 pm
2
1
Riverman,An individual is

Riverman,

An individual is arrested for DUI prior to blowing into the Intoximeter or taking a blood test. They may blow into a field test machine but the numerical reading is not admissible and may only be used as a pass/fail as one of the many field sobriety tests administered. The decision to arrest is based on many factors to include the field sobriety tests that are administered by the officer. Keep in mind that someone may fail these tests due to prescription medications combined with only one or two alcoholic beverages, something that many people don’t seem to understand even when a warning is placed on the prescription bottle about operating heavy machinery.

Georgia law requires you to take a breath, blood, or urine test if you are arrested for a DUI. Georgia’s “implied consent” law says that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence, then you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC). The test must be taken as soon as possible from the time when you were last driving. The officer gets to choose which test you take.

As for your question without referring to any specific incident, there are individuals at checkpoints and even in traffic stops at times where the officer has enough clues that it is in the best interest of the individual not to drive. Depending on what else occurred such as trying to avoid a road check by doing a u-turn or being stopped for failing to maintain a lane, etc. they could choose to arrest for “DUI Less Safe”. At a road check where no other issues occurred and the individual did pass enough of the roadside tests, the officers only choice would be to not allow the individual to continue driving for the safety of the persons, the public and possible liability (although unlikely) on the part of the officer.

A 160-pound person drinking two beers or 1 liquor drink within an hour would probably have a BAC of 0.04, well below the legal limits of driving under the influence, but 1.4 times more likely to have an accident than someone who is sober. After drinking 4 beers or 2 liquor drinks, the likelihood of an accident drastically increases. At .08 BAC, a driver is 11 times more likely than the non-drinking driver to be involved in a crash. After a 6 pack of beer or 3 liquor drinks, the likelihood of having an accident is now 48 times higher than the abstainer and the driver has just now exceeded the 0.10 BAC level. (This is not nor will it ever be 100% accurate as it is based on the amount poured, the proof of the liquor or beer, etc. - basics are on a 12 oz. standard beer such as bud light, a 2oz. 80 proof liquor drink or a standard 5 oz. glass of wine.)

Now, new studies are beginning to show that texting and driving is as bad but that does not take away from the fact that DUI’s must be stopped. Individuals are making conscious decisions to place others in jeopardy when they could simply plan ahead and have a designated driver, use a taxi or limo, call a friend, etc. It is good to see that more taxis are now available in our area, bars are offering complimentary rides or paying taxis to stay on location, wrecker services are offering rides with a tow of your vehicle, etc. And for the holidays, free rides are being offered by various businesses within 25 miles of Augusta. Awareness has greatly increased and it appears that DUI's are on the decrease.

GiantsAllDay
9572
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/31/13 - 12:38 am
1
0
Here's a driver who did the

Here's a driver who did the right thing at a checkpoint. The bullies will back down if you stand up to them. The bullies will often act differently if they know you are recording them.
http://youtu.be/ILqc0DMh84k

Riverman1
83489
Points
Riverman1 12/31/13 - 06:38 am
2
0
A Problem

CSRAGuy, I totally understand what you are saying and your concerns about drunk drivers. I hope you understand our concerns about what we feel are invasions of our privacy.

You said one thing and I know the incident it's based on without getting into specifics. If someone legally turns around to avoid a checkpoint, but is otherwise driving fine and blows under the limit why in the world is that DUI Less Safe? The individual wasn't driving in an unsafe manner.

Here is where one big problem occurs in my opinion. The person who actually has that one drink with dinner is stopped. The officer smells alcohol and puts the person through the field sobriety tests. Not only is it an incredible invasion of the privacy of an innocent person, but the individual is in danger of being charged with DUI Less Safe on the subjective opinion of the officer that the individual didn't perform the sobriety tests well enough.

Older people, those with physical conditions and so on can not easily stand on one foot and count backwards or whatever they are told to do. Leave one of these confrontations at a checkpoint whether charged or not and you would be anxious for a long time when going out.

If it is the policy that everyone who has a drink with dinner is put through this ordeal when stopped at checkpoints then alcohol should not be sold at restaurants. It is my contention if the RCSO actually has the policy of making anyone, who is acting rationally, but the officer detects the faintest whiff of alcohol on, get out of the vehicle and be subjected to field sobriety tests, it is a policy that is not a normal police procedure and may be beyond the law.

GiantsAllDay
9572
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/31/13 - 12:05 pm
1
1
Do NOT ever participate in

Do NOT ever participate in ANY field sobriety tests! They are not mandatory and there is NO penalty for declining these tests. There is only one reason for these tests, that being trying to make you look silly on camera for a jury to see later. The INSTANT you are asked to get out of the car, the officer has started to build a case against you. The field tests are a big part of that case. If he says something like "no big deal, I just want to see if you're ok to drive", he is lying his butt off. The camera will show the officer demonstrating the tests perfectly while the driver struggles. Ask the officer how many times in his life has he practiced these tests. If he says 100's or 1000's, reply back that you've never practiced them and it doesn't seem fair. See what he says then. Remember, partipating in field sobriety tests will NEVER help you. So the phrase is "officer I respectfully decline any field testing and that includes the portable, unofficial hand held breathalyzer".

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