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Ringgold, Catoosa County DUI: Double Jeopardy, buy one get one free

Dean v. State, A11A0525, May 2, 2011.

Martha Darlene Dean appealed from her motion to dismiss based on double jeopardy grounds. On May 21, 2009, she was involved in a collision just outside Ringgold in Catoosa County. She continued driving and collided with another car.  She continued entering Ringgold from unincorporated Catoosa County and collided with a third car which disabled her car.  A Ringgold City Police Officer charged her with DUI as did a Georgia State Patrol Trooper.  The Ringgold Police Officer filed his charges in Ringgold Municipal Court.  Ms. Dean bound her case over for a jury trial from Municipal Court to Catoosa Superior Court. The Georgia State Trooper filed his charges in Catoosa Probate Court.  Ms. Dean informed the prosecutor in the probate court of the charges in Municipal Court that were bound over, and Ms. Dean plead guilty to DUI and one other traffic offense in Catoosa Probate Court.

The Court of Appeals held that in a circumstance such as this involving one continuous transaction Double Jeopardy applies and subsequent prosecution for the same charge is barred.  OCGA § 16-1-7 (b), which provides: “If the several crimes arising from the same conduct are known to the proper prosecuting officer at the time of commencing the prosecution and are within the jurisdiction of a single court, they must be prosecuted in a single prosecution.”   First, the driving arose from the same conduct or common nucleus of operative fact.  Second, the offenses were told to the prosecutor in Probate Court which is assumably but not specifically mentioned in the opinion from the same District Attorney’s office in Catoosa County that prosecutes in Superior Court.  Therefore, one assistant district attorney was told knowledge would be imputed to the entire office.

The opinion is silent on this however and seems to imply that as long a proper prosecuting attorney knew then 16-1-7 is satisfied.  Third, the Superior Court had concurrent jurisdiction over the charges in Probate Court.  The Court of Appeals concluded that the three-part test of 16-1-7 was met and subsequent prosecution was barred. The judgment of the Superior Court was reversed.

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