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Acquittal of Clemson Student after a UGA Football Game

By William C. “Bubba” Head, DUI Attorney

DUI refusal case for a Clemson student in Athens GA ends with a jury trial acquittal after a successful suppression motion and neutralizing field sobriety test evidence at trial

Athens, Georgia is a college town that is nationally known for its SEC football team, the Georgia Bulldogs. This is where Athens, GA DUI lawyer William C. “Bubba” Head attended undergraduate school, law school, and began his private law practice. Mr. Head began his career as an Athens criminal defense attorney in 1976.

He handled hundreds of drunk driving cases in Athens-Clarke County and surrounding counties in northeast Georgia, before moving from Athens in 1991 to metro Atlanta.

Shortly after moving from Athens to Atlanta, GA, Mr. Head published his first DUI law book, 101 Ways to Avoid a Drunk Driving Conviction, was published in 1991. The book was co-authored with Reese I. Joye of North Charleston, SC, who has since passed away. It was the first book ever published on how to beat a DUI, and the book sold over 12,000 copies.

Any game day weekend in Athens GA brings visitors from many states, to watch the sports contests at Sanford Stadium. Intense football rivalries between southeastern conference and teams from other conferences, like the ACC, go back for over a century. Plus, basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, golf, gymnastics, track and field and swimming events all bring more UGA visitors.

Long after moving from Athens, Mr. Head was hired to assist a young man following a DUI arrest after a Georgia-Clemson game in Athens. Mr. Head’s name was given to the Client by DUI attorney Ronnie Cole, an Anderson, SC DUI lawyer and co-author of a South Carolina DUI law book.

The male client, a 21-year old Florida resident, attended Clemson University. After a Clemson-Georgia game, he was stopped by Athens GA police in the pre-dawn hours for “no tag on vehicle.” His temporary tag on the new car had fallen down in the rear window and was not visible, until you walked up to the car.

Once the officer walked up to the car, the tag was observed. This case could have never happened, but the field sobriety tests were offered by the Athens police, after the first officer smelled alcohol on the driver’s breath, once the car window was rolled down.

This led to a request that the young man exit the car, and do some roadside agility tests. Defendant was very cooperative with the police officer, and was unaware that he had no legal obligation to perform the scientifically-unreliable sobriety field tests. The arrest was made, and the out-of-state licensee refused to take the breathalyzer test at the police station. Originally booked into the Municipal Court of Athens, the case was later transferred to Clarke County State Court.

The Client in this Athens-Clarke County State Court case had no prior DUI convictions, but did not want to put a DUI first offense on his driving history.

However, the Client was concerned that his out-of-state residence and his status as a Clemson student would hurt his chances to win at trial. Mr. Head advised him that jurors in Athens GA are among the very best in the State of Georgia, at acquitting accused citizens, if they are shown to be telling the truth at trial.

DUI attorney Bubba Head, who regularly tries cases in Athens GA and the surrounding counties, knows that (outside the metropolitan Atlanta area) Athens Georgia is one of the top locations for the number of DUI arrests, in large part due to the many sporting events that draw large crowds to the Clarke County GA area.

After being hired to fight the drunk driving charge, Mr. Head investigated the case, including the extent of the officer’s training. Because the client had refused the implied consent breath alcohol testing, the primary evidence was the field sobriety test evidence from the night of this police encounter. The trial judge, at this State Court of Clarke County trial was Kent Lawrence.

A review of the Georgia P.O.S.T. (the law enforcement training center in Forsyth, GA) record for the officer, he had only had marginal training on administering field sobriety tests. In a pre-trial suppression motion, the officer admitted that he had learned field tests from another police officer whose grasp of field testing was poor, at best.

The three roadside field sobriety tests given included saying the English alphabet from “F” to “F” (yes, start with “F”, go to the end and start over and go back to “F”), a finger count test wherein the five fingers of one hand were supposed to be counted by touching the thumb to the four fingertips of the fingers on the same hand, and to repeat this.

Next, a walk & turn-type test, with about half the proper instructions for the evaluation (if done in accordance with the NHTSA standardized field sobriety test 3-test battery). In addition, Mr. Head pointed out that the young officer gave a defective demonstration of what was needed to “pass” the field test. To make the field test evidence even more questionable, the officer’s police report showed that Defendant had reported to the officer having “bad knees” from his high school soccer injuries.

The officer told the jury that the Defendant failed all of the “homegrown” field sobriety tests, although the police officer admitted that he had no particular scoring system, other than his own general, subjective perception of performance by Defendant.

Cross-examination by DUI lawyer Head revealed that the officer had no real guidelines of “pass-fail” the young officer was particularly tough on counting off for alleged manifestations of impairment which he had not instructed Defendant were part of these tests. In a nutshell, unless the Clemson student did everything perfectly, this was going to be a DUI arrest.

The arresting officer had given the Client the Georgia implied consent law notice, after cuffing him for the DUI arrest. Mr. Head filed a pre-trial motion, seeking to exclude the alleged refusal to take the State’s breath test, using existing cases from Georgia’s appellate courts to request suppression of the alleged refusal.

The basis for requested exclusion was (a) that the implied consent advisements were deficient under Georgia case law.

This was due to not advising the Defendant, as a non-resident licensee, that his driving privileges in the State of Georgia would be impacted by his decision to either be breath tested or to refuse under the then-existing Georgia implied consent law [State v. Coleman,216 Ga. App. 598 (1995) and State v. Renfroe, 216 Ga. App. 709 (1995)]. That version of the GA implied consent warnings read to Mr. Head’s client was incorrect inasmuch as Defendant had no prior DUI convictions, and that prior to that date, the advisement given was only applicable to repeat offenders.

The Athens GA judge for this case, Kent Lawrence, of the State Court of Clarke County, excluded the refusal from being put into evidence before the jury at trial.

The Renfroe and Coleman case, along with an appeal won by Mr. Head called State v. Leviner, assisted the Client to have this refusal thrown out.

At trial, the defense called Defendant’s dance companion from that evening, a 22-year old female friend from his high school in Florida. She was now a UGA student and had been with him the whole evening, and testified that neither of them had any alcohol from about midnight until the traffic stop at 4:32 A.M. This was partly due to ordinances in Athens (at the time) which had an early closing time.

Because this case had no video evidence, DUI attorney Bubba Head had the Client also testify in the case. His testimony indicated that from 6:00 P.M. to midnight, he had 5 drinks at a bar, with no other alcohol consumed after they went to the 40 Watt Club at midnight to dance. No more alcohol was consumed after leaving the bar where they had eaten.

Atlanta DUI lawyer Bubba Head also brought in DUI expert witness Bill Taylor, a former Captain with the Gainesville police department, and head of the DUI task force when he was still with Gainesville Police Department.

This DUI expert witness testified about the proper instructions and procedures, under GA law, on sobriety field tests, who testified that the officer’s subjectively-scored and defectively-graded field sobriety tests were totally meaningless, and unreliable to prove sobriety or lack of sobriety.

The jury deliberated for 35 minutes before returning a not guilty verdict on the DUI. This kept the Client from having a DUI first offense on his record.

If you have a pending criminal case in Athens for impaired driving [DUI]underage possession of alcohol, or Georgia drug possession, in Athens Municipal Court, Athens-Clarke County, or ANYWHERE else in the state of GA, call Bubba Head at 404-567-5515 or toll free at 1-888-DUI-HEAD [1-888-384-4323] for a FREE PDF copy of his 430 page DUI book for clients, plus a FREE case evaluation by Mr. Head, and learn how to avoid a conviction in your criminal case.

Or, you can e-mail DUI lawyer Mr. Head your case information (readable copies of all paperwork from the DUI arrest) at his office address: wchead@criminaldefensematters.com, for a quick return call from his DUI law firm, to set up an appointment.

Because a DUI conviction is FOREVER – it never comes off your criminal history – pleading guilty to DUI is a huge mistake, if you have any chance to win. Even if you have taken an Intoxilyzer 9000 breath test, don’t give up!  Look at the credentials of William C. “Bubba” Head, and you will see why other DUI attorneys across Georgia refer over half of his cases each year, when they want one of their relatives or friends to have aggressive, dedicated representation.

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