MILLER, P. J., DOYLE, P. J., and REESE, J.
Charles was charged with driving under the influence of
drugs, alcohol,  and a combination thereof,
well as misdemeanor possession of marijuana,  driving with
defective equipment,  and driving without
insurance. The evidence of these crimes was gathered,
in large part, during a traffic stop. She moved to suppress
this evidence, and the trial court granted the motion, in
part. The State contends that the trial court erred by
finding that the roadside stop was not authorized because it
was outside of the officer's jurisdiction. Because the
stop was authorized under the "hot pursuit"
doctrine, we reverse.
appellate review of a ruling on a motion to suppress, the
trial court's findings on disputed facts will be upheld
unless clearly erroneous, and its application of the law to
undisputed facts is subject to de novo
review." Here, the relevant facts are undisputed.
record shows that just prior to dawn one morning, a Fayette
County Sheriff's Deputy and his trainee were sitting in a
marked patrol car in the entrance of a business in Fayette
County when they observed Charles driving on the adjacent
state highway with a defective tag light. They elected to
make a traffic stop, and the trainee, who was driving, pulled
the patrol car onto the highway to make contact with Charles.
The speed limit on the highway was 55 miles per hour, and it
took the officers approximately five or six tenths of a mile
to catch up to Charles's vehicle "somewhere right
around the Fayette County, Clayton County line." They
followed Charles approximately three additional tenths of a
mile to level roadway where they activated their blue lights
and executed the traffic stop. The deputy explained at the
suppression hearing that they were "going from a dead
stop to get up there to 55[, and] I'm not going to floor
it to catch up with a car over a tag light. I'm not going
to do that to catch up to them[;] in light traffic[, ] I
catch up to them [without difficulty]." He also
explained that he is trained to make all of his traffic stops
on level ground in the event that roadside sobriety testing
Charles stopped, the deputy, who had training in drug
recognition and impaired driving enforcement, was able to
smell the odor of marijuana emanating from the car when
Charles rolled down her window. His trainee smelled it also.
When Charles stepped out of the vehicle, the deputy observed
that she had bloodshot, glassy eyes; "droopy"
eyelids; slurred speech; and slow movements. Based on those
observations and the odor of marijuana, the deputy asked
Charles to participate in standardized field sobriety
testing, and Charles agreed. Once engaged with Charles, the
deputy also smelled alcohol about Charles's person, and
based on her performance on the field sobriety tests, as well
as the observed odors, the deputy determined that he had
probable cause to arrest her for DUI less safe due to drug
and alcohol consumption. In a search incident to the arrest,
the deputy found a misdemeanor amount of suspected marijuana
in Charles's purse.
moved to suppress the evidence from the traffic stop, and
following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court ruled that
the stop was not authorized because it occurred outside of
Fayette County and did not fall within the "hot
pursuit" doctrine, but the court did not apply the
exclusionary rule because the evidence discovered in the stop
was too attenuated from the unlawful traffic stop. The State
State argues that the trial court erred by ruling that the
stop was not authorized under the "hot pursuit"
doctrine. We agree.
"a peace officer has the power to make traffic stops and
to arrest only in the territory of the governmental unit by
which he was appointed."
[A]n exception to this rule[, however] is recognized in
instances in which "hot pursuit" of an offender
takes a [peace] officer beyond his geographical limits in
order to effectuate an arrest. . . . [T]he fact that an
officer does not engage in a high speed chase in the pursuit
of a driver does not necessarily mandate a finding that the
stop and arrest beyond the officer's territorial limits
were unauthorized under the "hot pursuit" doctrine.
Nor is there any requirement that the officer activate
emergency lights or a siren before leaving his jurisdictional
territory. The critical elements characterizing "hot
pursuit" are the continuity and immediacy of the
pursuit, rather than merely the rate of speed at which
pursuit is made. A pursuing officer may, and should,
wait to stop and arrest a suspect at the first opportunity
for doing so which is, under the circumstances, safe
for all concerned - the suspect, the officers and other
it is undisputed that the arresting deputies immediately
began pursuit of Charles upon observing her broken tag light,
which is a violation of OCGA § 40-8-7 (a), within their
territorial jurisdiction, Fayette County. The deputy
testified that the speed limit was 55 miles per hour, and
they began the pursuit from a standstill; nevertheless, they
conducted the pursuit with due regard for safety, taking into
account the relatively trivial nature of the observed
offense. Further, the evidence also is undisputed that the
pursuit was continuous until they executed the traffic stop
in Clayton County less than one mile from the point at which
they observed the offense. Under these facts, the decision to
look for safe, level ground to execute the traffic stop did
not interrupt the immediacy or continuity of the pursuit, nor
did it materially add to the duration of the pursuit - the
deputies stopped Charles less than a mile after starting from
a standstill on a highway with a 55-mile-per-hour speed
limit. Therefore, the trial court erred by concluding that
the stop was not authorized under the "hot pursuit"
doctrine,  and we reverse the judgment of the trial
court granting Charles's motion to suppress.
light of our holding above, we need not address the
State's remaining enumerations.
Miller, P. J., and ...