by: Richard Belcher Updated:ATLANTA,None —
A Channel 2 Action News investigation found Atlanta
police officers are no-shows at hundreds of DUI hearings.
Blood tests are mandatory in Georgia for DUI cases, but a Channel 2 investigation revealed some people who refuse them are getting out of trouble because the officers do not show up for court.
These are not criminal hearings, but the hearings can lead directly to a
one-year driver's license suspension.
One officer turned DUI lawyer estimates that Atlanta police miss the hearings
85 percent of the time.
Channel 2 Action News attended state hearings for drivers who refused to submit to the blood alcohol tests. State troopers attended the hearings, but very few APD officers were in attendance.
There are several APD officers in the department's DUI task force who attend the hearings.
Of the 22 Atlanta cases called while Channel 2 Action News was in attendance, only
five officers were present. That is a no-show rate of 77 percent.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher sat down with attorney Jackie Patterson. Belcher asked Patterson what he would guess is the percentage of officers from Atlanta who do not show up.
"I would say about 85 percent," Patterson said. Patterson has practiced law for 19 years, before that he was an Atlanta Police Officer.
Patterson told Belcher he knows all about these state hearings and why officers don't show up. "These officers work evening and night shift. So, if there is no mandatory requirement and I'm off-duty, why would I show up?"
When Belcher asked Patterson what if the state troopers adopted the same no-show policy, Patterson replied, "Oh, it is no questions. They would be disciplined, because that system is very, very different than the Atlanta Police Department."
Belcher said he did a story in 1982 on the same
issue: Atlanta police officers not showing up to hearings.
"Thanks to WSB for bringing this to our attention," said Chief Renee Propes of the Atlanta Police Department.
Propes told Belcher she and other APD officials had no idea that,
with the exception of the officers on the DUI taskforce, APD largely ignores these state hearings.
Propes told Belcher officers told her the key reason they do not want to go is the city does not provide a lawyer to help protect the criminal portion of their DUI case.
"So they are faced in a hearing with a defendant who has a defense
attorney, who is asking them questions and they are having to bring forth evidence and virtually testify to their criminal case in their hearing," Propes said.
State troopers whose attendance is nearly 100 percent always have a state lawyer present to help them and to protect the criminal case.
"The criminal case is the one that is the most important," Propes said.
APD now said its officers will no longer ignore these non-criminal hearings. Raines Carter, the municipal court solicitor, told Belcher his office will be made available to advise police officers.
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