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Are road blocks legal?

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

The Georgia Supreme Court threw out evidence collected during road checks in a couple of Georgia counties. Ruling those checks violated motorists constitutional rights against illegal search and seizures. Justices ruled officers didn't follow longstanding precedent that road blocks must be planned and have a specific goal.

Drivers and law enforcers we talked to believe checks do have a place on Georgia roads. The law states that a police road block has to be approved by a supervisor and have probable cause.

That hasn't changed, but with the Georgia supreme court ruling on the case in Bibb county does have some concerned.

"It's for every citizens' safety to remove drivers off the road that might be intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs or maybe involved in a crime," said Dougherty Co. Sheriff Kevin Sproul.

Sheriff Sproul says road blocks normally check to make sure drivers have a valid license, insurance, and registration, and do not have an outstanding warrant. He says in one four to eight hour period, officers can take ten to twenty people who may cause harm off the road.

"If there is a roadblock someone is stopped for a legitimate purpose they encounter criminals I think it's perfectly appropriate thing for police officer to do," said driver Gail Drake.

Dougherty County Police Captain Tom Jackson told us by phone that some of the court rulings or language can make it difficult to enforce the law. He says he wants to keep dangerous drivers from hurting the innocent.

D. A. Greg Edwards agrees. "We have to find a balance as interpreted by the supreme court of Georgia which interprets our law."

Deborah Nelson lives in the area and agrees with police road blocks to a point. to make sure criminals are caught and people are driving legally. "I want them to do it within the law don't use the badge some don't." 

Sheriff Sproul says this ruling will make law enforcement evaluate their procedures, but he is also concerned about protecting the citizens from preventable actions by those who break the law. One defense lawyer we spoke to says although road blocks serve a purpose. Citizens should learn their rights.

 

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