Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer on state DUI laws:
There's an obstacle in Georgia's DUI laws way too big to call a "loophole." This is a yawning chasm into which have fallen both reasonable justice and common sense.
You couldn't make this up -- although American author Joseph Heller did, more than a half-century ago, in his classic novel "Catch-22" about the amoral and brutally circular illogic of bureaucracy, even when human lives are at stake.
The glaring Catch-22 in Georgia's DUI prosecutorial procedure: According to a story aired on Atlanta's WSB-TV and picked up by AJC.com, some drivers who fail breath, blood or urine tests are getting those tests suppressed as evidence on the grounds that they were too drunk at the time to give informed consent.
Got that? If you're really smashed when you get caught, you can argue later that you were too wasted to know what you were doing when you consented to an alcohol impairment test. And the drunker you were, the better your chance of getting the court to suppress evidence of how drunk you were.
A clearer example of an offender benefiting from his or her own wrongdoing would be hard to cite. It upends both sound evidentiary reasoning and common sense. And the potential damage to the usefulness of sobriety tests as a deterrent to drunk driving is all too obvious.
The precedent was set three years ago, when the state Supreme Court ruled that a driver pulled over for a suspected DUI might not "actually" have consented to a blood test. Gwinnett State Court Judge Joseph Iannazzone subsequently threw out the blood test results of that case, and five others.
Though it was the Supreme Court that kicked the initial case back down for reconsideration, the subsequent reasoning of the state court demands at least equally critical scrutiny. A police officer is recorded on patrol car audio telling the suspect, "I need a yes or no to this." Suspect: "A yes or no to what?" Officer: "Will you submit to a state chemical test of your breath under the implied consent law?" Suspect: "I mean (expletive) it, man, why not?"
Any ambiguity in any of that? To the state court judge, apparently there was: "This court finds that the State was only able to show that Defendant's responses indicated acquiescence to the officer's request but was unable to show actual consent."
Maybe police need a new Miranda card explaining the difference between "acquiescence" and "consent."
Prosecutors now can use field officers' testimony, patrol car video and field sobriety test results, but not necessarily breath, blood or urine tests. They can't even tell a jury such test results even exist.
So if you were drunk enough to be convicted, maybe you were too drunk to consent. And if you weren't, maybe you won't be convicted. If this were about something less serious, it would almost be funny.
The Daily Citizen of Dalton on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources:
From the islands of the coast to the mountains we enjoy in the area and call our home, Georgia is fortunate to have a vast array of recreational activity possibilities.
One of the biggest providers of recreational opportunities across the state is the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which operates all of the state parks and wildlife management areas across the state.
Every five years, the DNR conducts a statewide survey of public needs and gathers an inventory of outdoor recreation assets. From those assessments, it formulates a policy document that provides guidance to local, state and federal facilities by recognizing trends and identifying needs.
The plan focuses on outdoor recreation through the lenses of conservation, public health and quality of life, economic vitality and greater financial sustainability. The 2017-2021 report will be submitted by Gov. Nathan Deal to the U.S. Department of Interior in October or November of next year.
Receiving public input is crucial to developing a workable plan to address problems and deficiencies and to provide state officials with a better focus to meet the needs of the citizens of the state and provide for their recreation desires.
Monday night, one of three scheduled public meetings will be held in Dalton at the John Davis Recreation Center on Civic Drive. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and is expected to last until 8:30.
We all have or should have a vested interest in the recreational offerings of the state. Whether you take advantage of running trails across the mountains, have golf getaways at state parks or even if it is just a desire to see a better quality of life in your community, you have a role to play in the future of recreation planning in Georgia.
We encourage everyone to attend the meeting if possible to provide ideas and feedback to those who are trying to decide how best to use our tax dollars for recreational opportunities for all Georgians.
The Macon Telegraph on gaming machines:
There is a reason South Carolina lawmakers ran gaming machines that had become a staple of many convenience stores right out of the Palmetto state. They were a corrosive element that raked in millions of dollars and had influence from the state Capitol to local courthouses. What they experienced in South Carolina is becoming increasingly clear in Georgia.
In a lawsuit filed by Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke involving what may be the largest civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case filed by the state, 85 convenience stores located in 31 counties are accused of illegal gambling. Georgia law prohibits cash payouts on these gaming machines, but all but an idiot would believe people who in a period from July 1 to Sept. 30 bet more than $12 million would be satisfied with a soda and potato chips for plying the machines with greenbacks.
When Georgia lawmakers adjusted the law and decided to tax the machines, they allowed self-reporting. What a joke. In all of 2014, only $15 million was reported. Winnings were also downplayed. In the three-month period stated above it's estimated customers won about $8 million. However in 2014, under self-reporting, customers won that amount for the entire year.
These machines are a cancer and while this legal action is most appreciated it is up to the lawmakers who will sit under the Gold Dome in January to do what their colleagues did in South Carolina and kick these gaming machines to the curb for good.