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State v Holmes – driving down a road late at night not reason for a investigatory stop by Police

State v. Holmes, A13A2164, March 21, 2014.  Travis Holmes was arrested for DUI and had his case thrown out after a motion to suppress the stop in the Cherokee County State Court in Canton, Georgia.  Holmes was essentially stopped for driving on a road late at night after a report of vandalism at some local baseball fields and reckless driving and after driving up to police investigating two carloads of underage drinkers.  The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court granting of the motion to suppress and declined to hold that an ongoing investigation of the other vehicles for underage drinking and DUI authorized the deputies to execute an investigatory stop or traffic stop of every car that came down the particular public road after a report of vandalism and reckless driving on or adjacent to that road.

Georgia case law is clear that, absent some particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, merely driving down a public road late at night — whether in a quiet residential subdivision, in a high crime area, or in a way that fits a known “pattern” of criminal activity — does not justify an investigatory stop. See Hughes v. State, 269 Ga. 258, 260 (497 SE2d 790) (1998) (finding a lack of sufficient basis to justify an investigatory stop “merely because the person is a white man in a black neighborhood late at night, who picks up a black man at a location police consider a high-crime area, and who then drives slowly in a circular fashion through the neighborhood.”); Young v. State, 285 Ga. App. 214, 215-216 (2007) (“The act of driving at night, lawfully, on a public road [even] in a high crime area [with a lawnmower in the trunk] does not justify an investigative stop in the absence of additional circumstances,” despite being in an area of reported thefts.) (punctuation omitted); Lyttle v. State, 279 Ga. App. 659, 662 (2006) (investigatory stop not authorized because “the deputy did not observe [the defendant] doing anything other than driving at night, lawfully, on a public road in a high crime area”); Attaway v. State, 236 Ga. App. 307, 309 (511 SE2d 635) (1999) (reversing denial of a motion to suppress because the “only arguably suspicious behavior . . . was driving around a subdivision several times late at night”).

-Author: George Creal