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McCoy v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

May 7, 2018

McCOY
v.
THE STATE.

          Boggs, Justice.

         Appellant Latisha Shana McCoy was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana to the extent it was less safe to drive after she was stopped at a roadblock in Henry County. She moved to suppress all evidence obtained from the stop and arrest on the ground that the roadblock violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied McCoy's motion, and following a bench trial, found her guilty. She appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court's denial of her motion to suppress. McCoy v. State, 341 Ga.App. 216 (799 S.E.2d 354) (2017). We granted McCoy's petition for certiorari on the following issue: "Did the Court of Appeals err in its application of LaFontaine v. State, 269 Ga. 251 (497 S.E.2d 367) (1998), in determining whether the roadblock was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, in particular the factor that considers the screening officer's training and experience?"[1]

         Although we do not follow the analysis employed by the Court of Appeals, we affirm the judgment, and in doing so we clarify the factors needed to determine whether a roadblock is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

         The record reveals that the parties agreed to the following at a stipulated bench trial: McCoy was stopped at a roadblock in Henry County around 12:30 a.m. The screening officer suspected that she was impaired from marijuana. Another officer took over the investigation and subsequently arrested McCoy for DUI.[2]

         Prior to trial however, McCoy moved to suppress all evidence seized as a result of the stop and arrest. The screening officer did not testify at the hearing on the motion to suppress. Rather, the only individual to testify was the police sergeant who made the decision to implement the roadblock pursuant to the police department's written policy. When asked what training the screening officers had to determine if a driver needed to be given field sobriety tests, the sergeant responded that the officers "go through a certification during their police academy, the Georgia POST."[3] At the hearing, McCoy argued that the roadblock violated the Fourth Amendment because the State failed to meet the fifth requirement of LaFontaine because it did not prove that the screening officer's training and experience qualified him "to make the initial determination as to which motorists should be given field sobriety tests for intoxication." The trial court denied McCoy's motion to suppress, finding that the State met its burden under LaFontaine because the testimony of the sergeant established that all officers present were POST certified, and that this certification and training allows the officer to judge which drivers may or may not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

         The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the trial court, noting that on motion for reconsideration of the denial of McCoy's motion to suppress, the trial court took judicial notice of the fact that any POST-certified police officer in Georgia has training and experience sufficient to qualify him to make an initial determination as to which motorists stopped at a roadblock should be given field sobriety tests. McCoy, supra, 341 Ga.App. at 220.[4] The court held:

Given that any person may give an opinion, on the basis of personal observation of another person on a given occasion, that the other person did or did not appear to be intoxicated, and given that any POST-certified officer will have had some training in law enforcement activities that concern impaired drivers, we conclude based on the foregoing authorities that the trial court in this case did not err in denying McCoy's motion to suppress based on its finding that the POST-certified screening officer had training and experience sufficient to enable him to make the initial determination as to which motorists should be given the field tests for intoxication.

Id. at 221.

         As we explained most recently in Brown v. State, 293 Ga. 787 (750 S.E.2d 148) (2013), this Court in LaFontaine

identified five minimum requirements that a particular checkpoint must satisfy to be upheld as constitutional:
A roadblock is satisfactory where [1] the decision to implement the roadblock was made by supervisory personnel rather than the officers in the field; [2] all vehicles are stopped as opposed to random vehicle stops; [3] the delay to motorists is minimal; [4] the roadblock operation is well identified as a police checkpoint; and [5] the "screening" officer's training and experience is sufficient to qualify him to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be given field tests for intoxication.

(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Brown, supra, 293 Ga. at 793 (2) (b). We explained further that the United States Supreme Court in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (121 S.Ct. 447, 148 L.Ed.2d 333) (2000), "supplemented LaFontaine's requirements for the implementation and operation of a constitutionally valid checkpoint by adding the requirement of an inquiry into the primary purpose of the checkpoint program." (Citations, punctuation, and footnote omitted.) Brown, supra, 293 Ga. at 796 (2) (d). And we noted that "compliance with the Edmond and LaFontaine requirements does not necessarily end the Fourth Amendment analysis of a checkpoint case. The ultimate question remains whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the challenged stop was reasonable.[Cit.]" Id. at 797 (2) (d).

         McCoy argues that the Court of Appeals erred in its application of the fifth LaFontaine factor. Specifically, she contends the State presented no evidence that the screening officer's training and experience was sufficient to qualify him to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be given field tests for intoxication. McCoy asserts that, although all officers who are POST certified may receive training in DUI detection, training does not equate to experience. For this reason, she asserts that the roadblock violated the Fourth Amendment.

         The LaFontaine factors to determine whether a roadblock is satisfactory were adopted by this Court based on the Court of Appeals opinion in State v.Golden, 171 Ga.App. 27 (318 S.E.2d 693) (1984). The ...


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