MILLER, P. J., DOYLE and REESE, JJ.
Miller, Presiding Judge.
Lieutenant Daniel Peabody was indicted on two counts of
aggravated cruelty to animals (OCGA § 16-12-4 (d)), and
one count of making a false statement (OCGA § 16-10-20),
in connection with the hot-car death of his K-9 dog, Inka.
Peabody moved to quash the indictment for the animal cruelty
charges, on the grounds that the State violated OCGA §
17-7-52 by failing to provide him with a copy of the proposed
bill of indictment, and more importantly, notice, before
presenting the case to the grand jury. The trial court
granted Peabody's motion, and the State now appeals,
contending that OCGA § 17-7-52 is inapplicable because
Peabody was not acting in the performance of his official job
duties when the alleged crimes occurred. This Court finds
that Peabody was in fact acting within the scope of his
official duties and he was therefore entitled to the
protections afforded by OCGA § 17-7-52, including
notice. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's grant of
the motion to quash the indictment.
review the trial court's interpretations of law and
application of the law to the facts de novo and its findings
of fact for clear error."
viewed, Peabody was a POST-certified peace officer, K-9
handler, and the owner of Inka. At the time of this incident,
he was employed by the Cherokee County School District Police
Department and had been Inka's K-9 handler for almost
four years. Although Peabody's job customarily required
him to perform his duties while inside school district
buildings or facilities, he was also authorized to work with
accordance with the Cherokee County School Police
Department's K-9 Policy and Procedures in effect at the
time, Peabody was responsible for Inka's daily care, and
his duties included providing her with food, water, shelter,
and exercise. Peabody was also responsible for getting Inka
into county-issued or personal vehicles, transporting her,
and then removing her from those vehicles. Peabody housed
Inka at his residence, and he was compensated accordingly.
afternoon of June 10, 2016, Peabody left work in his county
vehicle, with Inka in the back seat. On the way home, Peabody
received a text message from his wife asking him to let out a
puppy that she was boarding at their home. When Peabody
arrived at his house, he parked in the driveway, turned the
car engine off, and went inside the house to attend to the
puppy. Peabody left Inka in the county vehicle with the doors
shut and the windows closed, which ultimately resulted in
learning that the State intended to present its case to the
grand jury, Peabody timely notified the State that he wanted
to testify before the grand jury pursuant to OCGA §
17-7-52, the statute which governs indictment procedures when
a peace officer is charged with "a crime which is
alleged to have occurred while he or she was in the
performance of his or her duties." OCGA § 17-7-52
(a). When the statute is applicable, an officer is entitled
to at least 20-days notice prior to the presentment of a
proposed indictment to a grand jury. OCGA § 17-7-52 (a).
response to Peabody's notice, the State claimed that the
statute was inapplicable because the crimes did not occur
while Peabody was in the performance of his official duties.
Consequently, the State did not send Peabody a copy of the
proposed indictment before presenting its case to the grand
jury in September 2016. After the grand jury indicted
Peabody, the superior court granted Peabody's motion to
quash the indictment, finding that the alleged acts did occur
while Peabody was in the performance of his official duties
as a police officer. This Court then granted the State's
request for interlocutory review.
appeal, the State posits that because Peabody left Inka in
the vehicle to attend to personal tasks, he "stepped
aside" from his police-related duties and was therefore
not entitled to the protections afforded by OCGA §
17-7-52. We disagree.
§ 17-7-52 (2016) provides:
Before a bill of indictment or special presentment against a
present or former peace officer charging the officer with a
crime which is alleged to have occurred while he or she was
in the performance of his or her duties is presented to a
grand jury, the officer shall be given a copy of the
proposed bill of indictment or special presentment and
notified in writing of the contemplated action by the
prosecuting attorney. Such notice and a copy of the proposed
bill of indictment or special presentment shall be
provided to such officer not less than 20 days prior
to the date upon which a grand jury will begin hearing
(Emphases supplied.) OCGA § 17-7-52 (a).