MILLER, P. J., BROWN and GOSS, JJ.
Strickland was charged by uniform traffic citation with
following too closely in violation of OCGA § 40-6-49. At
the close of evidence during his bench trial, Strickland made
an oral motion to quash the charge, which the trial court
denied. Strickland appeals, contending that the trial court
erred in denying his motion to quash the charge because the
citation fails to allege the essential elements of the
offense. For the reasons explained below, we agree and
have previously explained,
the true test of the sufficiency of an indictment or
accusation or citation is not whether it could have been made
more definite and certain (or, for that matter, perfect, )
but whether it contains the elements of the offense intended
to be charged, and sufficiently apprises the defendant of
what he must be prepared to meet, and in case any other
proceedings are taken against him for a similar offense,
whether the record shows with accuracy to what extent he may
plead a former acquittal or conviction.
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Thomason v.
State, 196 Ga.App. 447, 448 (2) (396 S.E.2d 79) (1990).
In Jackson v. State, 301 Ga. 137, 140 (1) (800
S.E.2d 356) (2017), the Supreme Court of Georgia emphasized
that withstanding a general demurrer or motion to quash
"requires more than simply alleging the accused violated
a certain statute." Thus, a legally sufficient
indictment must either "(1) recite the language of the
statute that sets out all the elements of the offense
charged, or (2) allege the facts necessary to establish
violation of a criminal statute." Id. at 141
(1). "[I]f the accused can admit all the indictment or
accusation or citation charges and still be innocent of
having committed any offense, the indictment or accusation or
citation is defective." (Citation and punctuation
omitted.) Thomason, 196 Ga.App. at 448 (2).
the citation charged Strickland with the offense of
"following to[o] close[ly] in violation of code section
40-6-49." OCGA § 40-6-49 provides:
(a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another
vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having
due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic
upon and the condition of the highway.
(b) The driver of any motor vehicle which is drawing another
vehicle when traveling upon a roadway outside of a business
or residential district and which is following another motor
truck or motor vehicle drawing another vehicle shall,
whenever conditions permit, leave sufficient space so that an
overtaking vehicle may enter and occupy such space without
danger, except that this shall not prevent a motor truck or
motor vehicle drawing another vehicle from overtaking and
passing any like vehicle or other vehicle.
(c) Motor vehicles being driven upon any roadway outside of a
business or residential district in a caravan or motorcade
whether or not towing other vehicles shall be so operated as
to allow sufficient space between each such vehicle or
combination of vehicles so as to enable any other vehicle to
enter and occupy such space without danger. This subsection
shall not apply to funeral processions, parades, or other
groups of vehicles if such groups of vehicles are under the
supervision and control of a law enforcement agency.
(d) Vehicles which approach from the rear any other vehicle
or vehicles stopped or slowed to make a lawful turn shall be
deemed to be following for purposes of this Code section.
(e) This Code section shall not apply to the operator of any
non-leading vehicle traveling in a coordinated platoon. For
purposes of this subsection, the term "coordinated
platoon" means a group of motor vehicles traveling in
the same lane utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle communication
technology to automatically coordinate the movement of such
conclude that the citation was substantively defective
because it simply alleges that Strickland violated a certain
statute, which is insufficient to survive a motion to quash.
See Jackson, 301 Ga. 140 (1). The citation fails to
recite the language of OCGA § 40-6-49 setting out all
the elements of the offense. The fact that the citation
includes the verbiage of "following too closely" -
the title of the code section - does not remedy the issue.
Cf. State v. Ware, 282 Ga. 676, 678 (653 S.E.2d 21)
(2007) ("it is fundamental that the preamble or caption
of an act is no part thereof and cannot control the plain
meaning of the body of the act") (citation omitted).
Likewise, the citation fails to allege any facts necessary to
establish a violation of OCGA § 40-6-49. While it
indicates an accident occurred, the citation does not provide
any details. It is unclear from the citation how the accident
occurred, how many vehicles were involved, at what speeds the
vehicles were traveling, and the approximate distance between
the vehicles. The citation does allege that the weather was
"clear," the road was "dry," and the
traffic was "medium," but this alone is
insufficient to establish that Strickland violated OCGA