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Jones v. State – S11G1054 – If you want to avoid a road block don’t panic: stay calm and move on!

Jones v State, S11G1054, is an appeal from a DUI conviction after the Denial of a Motion to Suppress from the Coweta County State Court in Newman, Georgia on May 7, 2012. Micheal Jeffrey Jones was driving in his truck behind an SUV. As they approached the roadblock, the SUV took an abrupt turn into an empty strip mall parking lot. All of the stores were closed. Jones followed the SUV with a not overtly abrupt turn into the parking lot. A trooper observed the incident and went to investigate. There was only one entrance to the parking lot, which also served as an exit. The trooper blocked the exit with his patrol car and left his flashing lights on. After deeming that the woman driving the SUV was free to go, the trooper passed by Jones’ truck and detected an odor of alcohol and marijuana emanating from the truck. The trooper detained Jones and had him perform field sobriety tests. He observed signs of impairment and arrest Jones for DUI. Jones then filed a motion in limine to exclude the results of the sobriety evaluations and State-administered test results on the grounds that the trooper did not have reasonable suspicion to detain him. A trial court, as well as the Georgia Court of Appeals, denied Jones’ motion. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed their decision, citing Florida v. Bostick and United States v. Mendenhall.

Florida v. Bostick established that “so long as a reasonable person would feel free to disregard the police and go about his business, the encounter is consensual and no reasonable suspicion is required.” United States v. Mendenhall established that “a consensual encounter may become a seizure under the Fourth Amendment when given all of the circumstance surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have to believe that he was not free to leave.” The trooper testified that “there was no way [Jones] truck could have exited until [he] got through dealing with the first vehicle,” therefore, the encounter was not consensual, but a seizure.

Jones v. State established that an “unusual and illegal driving to avoid a roadblock provided sufficient evidence to justify the officer’s suspicion of criminal activity,” and this interpretation is reinforced by Richards v. State and Jorgenson v. State. So, it is the manner in which Jones turned into the empty parking lot and the fact that there was no evidence – i.e., testimony from the trooper – that supported that Jones did not make an “unusual” or “furtive” turn, that acquits him of his DUI conviction.

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