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DUI charges to be dropped after Bannister blood test comes back negative

By Christian Boone

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bannister's blood test, administered after his arrest, came back negative, his attorney confirmed to the AJC.

Bannister was pulled over Monday night and charged with driving under the influence. He also passed the breathalyzer exam, though the arresting deputy did not believe that result to be accurate.

"There was no alcohol in his system," attorney Alan Mullinax said. "It validates the chairman's story."

During a news conference Thursday morning, Conway acknowledged that Bannister was not intoxicated when he was arrested. He apologized to the chairman and said he will investigate what went wrong.

"Police and sheriff's deputies are not infallible," said Conway, adding they relied too much on witnesses who claimed Bannister had "at least 3-4″ beers. "They made a mistake. That's obvious on its face."

Conway asserted there was no political motive behind the arrest.

Bannister had insisted he wasn’t drunk at the time of his arrest and told sheriff's deputies he had no more than "one or two beers."

"People should be outraged at what transpired," Mullinax said.

A Gwinnett sheriff's deputy, acting on a tip from a patron, waited for Bannister outside a Lilburn sports bar and then followed the chairman before pulling him over. According to the police report, Bannister made an illegal lane change that caused another driver to slam on the brakes. It also states he failed three field sobriety tests before taking the breath test.

Though the sheriff has asked the county solicitor to expunge Bannister's arrest from public record, the incident is far from resolved.

"We want to know why it happened," Mullinax told the AJC.

Bannister is relieved, Mullinax said, though there was some concern the blood test might be tampered with.

"You never know," the Lawrenceville attorney said. "But [bannister] had nothing to hide. He knew he was going to be completely exonerated."

Gwinnett County Police are in charge of handling the records for the Intoxilyzer 5000 that was used to test Bannister's breath for the presence of alcohol. The AJC has requested the testing records and logs reflecting whether the equipment was functioning properly before and after the chairman's arrest.

The blood test results, meanwhile, were expedited due to the high-profile nature of the case, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said. Such results normally take up to 30 days.

DUI attorney Ben Sessions said Wednesday "It's just incredible that they would get it that quickly just because of the political pressure that's involved here."

--Staff writers David Wickert and Andria Simmons contributed to this report.

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See why I have some problems trusting the police/law enforcement? They believe what they want to believe. What if this was an average guy that did not have a lawyer? Certainly, he was singled out for political reasons, but what's to stop this from affecting others?

I can't remember the last time I saw police from any jurisdiction I find myself in, obey ANY traffic laws. I really hate the ones that tailgate me while they are talking on their cell phones.

How are we to obey the laws if those that enforce them fail to obey?

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Looks like this **** just got real:

GBI will investigate Bannister's arrest

By David Wickert

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will investigate Monday’s arrest of Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charles Bannister.

Sheriff Butch Conway called GBI Director Vernon Keenan last night to request an investigation of the incident, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said this morning. He said the investigation will begin next week.

Bankhead declined to say what questions the investigation would seek to answer. Conway said he asked Keenan to investigate "the incident surrounding the arrest of Charles Bannister."

Bannister was arrested and charged with drunken driving even though a breath test showed he had no alcohol in his system. Results of a blood test analyzed by the GBI confirmed Bannister had no alcohol in his blood.

Bannister’s attorney has questioned the conduct of the sheriff’s deputies involved in the arrest. He asked Conway for an independent investigation.

A day after apologizing to Bannister, Conway admitted again that his deputies made mistakes. Among them: in retrospect, Conway said the deputies should have released Bannister when the breath test came back negative.

The sheriff said the investigation will show exactly what went wrong.

"We were wrong," Conway said. "That's all I can say."

Check back for more details.

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Things like this make it easier to believe blood samples from the OJ Simpson crime scene were tampered with.

Did he also tamper with the breathalyzer at the scene that could not find any trace of alcohol?

I think that the cop relied too much on bad information and not enough on his own observations.

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I'm interested in how this turns out. Someone close to me also was arrested for DUI. She had to do the field sobriety tests, and they made her do a road breathalizer. Then they drove her around for a bit, went to a precint, and had her do another breathalizer test there. Then they took her to the hospital, and did a blood test. (On their own volition, not because she asked for that.) Finally, when they took her to jail, she had to do a 3rd breathalizer test there. 0 (zero) on all the breath tests. All this took place over the course of a couple hours or more. I don't even know if that s*it is legal! She submitted, because she hadn't had anything to drink, and wasn't drunk. She's like Shiney's example up there, can't afford a decent attorney, so in the process of getting a P.D. So, she doesn't have the results from the blood test yet. I am hoping her chances are good to get it reduced to a traffic charge. The cop said she turned left from a right lane. She says she didn't.

But check this out - the similarity to this thread, is that he also said, "someone had called the cops w/her tag number and said they saw her weaving, and gave an approximate location". Again, either fictitious or bad information, and not a whole lot on their own observations, or either pi** poor observational skills. Btw, this was Cobb Co. No surprise there.... they certainly are serious about "protect and serve" around them parts! :)

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Looks like this **** just got real:

GBI will investigate Bannister's arrest

A day after apologizing to Bannister, Conway admitted again that his deputies made mistakes. Among them: in retrospect, Conway said the deputies should have released Bannister when the breath test came back negative.

This is what I feel should have happened to my friend as well. Especially after 3 of them.

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The thing that makes me curious is this...

Bannister had insisted he wasn’t drunk at the time of his arrest and told sheriff's deputies he had no more than "one or two beers."

yet

Bannister's blood test, administered after his arrest, came back negative, his attorney confirmed to the AJC.

"There was no alcohol in his system," attorney Alan Mullinax said.

So this guy admits to drinking and then his blood test comes back with absolutely no traces of alcohol. That doesn't raise any flags? Tampered blood sample maybe?

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Did he also tamper with the breathalyzer at the scene that could not find any trace of alcohol?

I think that the cop relied too much on bad information and not enough on his own observations.

Keep in mind that this probably has more to do with relying on bad information as it does them being out to arrest this specific person.

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so he had "1 or 2 beers" that defense hasn't been given before.... speaking from a guy who has given that defense... if youve only had 1 beer you know it... if youve only had 2 beers you know it.... if you estimate your BAC as only 1 or 2 beers, even though youve indulged in plenty more, you give that defense...

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The thing that makes me curious is this...

yet

So this guy admits to drinking and then his blood test comes back with absolutely no traces of alcohol. That doesn't raise any flags? Tampered blood sample maybe?

Think about the amount of time that probably passed between having one or two beers and the blood test.

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Think about the amount of time that probably passed between having one or two beers and the blood test.

I understand that, but how much time do you really think it was? If your BAC reaches .05, it's going to take over 3 hours for the blood to register 0 alcohol. If the BAC goes up to .08, it takes over 5 hours. The rate that alcohol metabolizes is virtually the same for everyone. What the unknown is how high did the "1 or 2 beers" raise this guys BAC and when did the BAC reach it's maximum (which can be some time after the time the last drink was finished).

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He passed the breathalyser exam, "though the arresting deputy did not believe that to be accurate"... going back to my friend's story, wtf does he know? I guess since he failed the field sobriety tests? At any rate, sounds like he did one roadside and at least one back at the precinct as well, and both were negative. The equipment at the precinct is tested/regulated frequently. They should be able to rely on it. IMO, at that point, he should have been released, if he had consented to the breathalyser at both places.

JDave, if you consent to a breathalyser, can they FORCE you to take a blood test? I always thought the recommendation for anyone arrested for this was to refuse the breathalyser and request a blood test. (gives alcohol longer time to leave system) I just think they should have to, at least prove a REASONABLE suspicion, in order to hold someone in jail. But I suppose the law must consider a failed field sobriety test enough reasonable suspicion.

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I'm interested in how this turns out. Someone close to me also was arrested for DUI. She had to do the field sobriety tests, and they made her do a road breathalizer. Then they drove her around for a bit, went to a precint, and had her do another breathalizer test there. Then they took her to the hospital, and did a blood test. (On their own volition, not because she asked for that.) Finally, when they took her to jail, she had to do a 3rd breathalizer test there. 0 (zero) on all the breath tests. All this took place over the course of a couple hours or more. I don't even know if that s*it is legal! She submitted, because she hadn't had anything to drink, and wasn't drunk. She's like Shiney's example up there, can't afford a decent attorney, so in the process of getting a P.D. So, she doesn't have the results from the blood test yet. I am hoping her chances are good to get it reduced to a traffic charge. The cop said she turned left from a right lane. She says she didn't.

But check this out - the similarity to this thread, is that he also said, "someone had called the cops w/her tag number and said they saw her weaving, and gave an approximate location". Again, either fictitious or bad information, and not a whole lot on their own observations, or either pi** poor observational skills. Btw, this was Cobb Co. No surprise there.... they certainly are serious about "protect and serve" around them parts! :)

The good news is "he said/she said" goes out the window when one party lies. Since the cop has all these "suspicions" about DUI but she consistently blew 0.00, I seriously doubt a judge is going to believe anything that cop says.

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I understand that, but how much time do you really think it was? If your BAC reaches .05, it's going to take over 3 hours for the blood to register 0 alcohol. If the BAC goes up to .08, it takes over 5 hours. The rate that alcohol metabolizes is virtually the same for everyone. What the unknown is how high did the "1 or 2 beers" raise this guys BAC and when did the BAC reach it's maximum (which can be some time after the time the last drink was finished).

And how long prior to being pulled over did he have those 1 or 2 beers? I know there are numerous times I drank 2 beers early in the night and hung around until I was good to drive, then drove home. I bet I'd blow 0.00 too on one of those nights. If you wait long enough, that's what happens.

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He passed the breathalyser exam, "though the arresting deputy did not believe that to be accurate"... going back to my friend's story, wtf does he know? I guess since he failed the field sobriety tests? At any rate, sounds like he did one roadside and at least one back at the precinct as well, and both were negative. The equipment at the precinct is tested/regulated frequently. They should be able to rely on it. IMO, at that point, he should have been released, if he had consented to the breathalyser at both places.

Ironic, no, that the Brethalyzer 5000 is the Gospel truth when it says 0.09, but completely false when it says 0.00?

JDave, if you consent to a breathalyser, can they FORCE you to take a blood test? I always thought the recommendation for anyone arrested for this was to refuse the breathalyser and request a blood test. (gives alcohol longer time to leave system) I just think they should have to, at least prove a REASONABLE suspicion, in order to hold someone in jail. But I suppose the law must consider a failed field sobriety test enough reasonable suspicion.

If you refuse, they can suspend your license and you can be convicted of DUI regardless of the refusal. But no, they cannot force a blood test in Georgia, if my recollection is correct. That's tantamount to requiring you to testify against yourself, which is a 5th Amendment issue.

I don't know enough about DUI law to know what the recommended way to go is.

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And how long prior to being pulled over did he have those 1 or 2 beers? I know there are numerous times I drank 2 beers early in the night and hung around until I was good to drive, then drove home. I bet I'd blow 0.00 too on one of those nights. If you wait long enough, that's what happens.

Which is why I said

What the unknown is how high did the "1 or 2 beers" raise this guys BAC and when did the BAC reach it's maximum (which can be some time after the time the last drink was finished).

And did he blow a 0.00? The article just says he passed the breath test, doesn't necessarily mean it was 0.00 (admittedly I'm not following this story closely so that could be from somewhere else). If he blew less than a .05 then he passed the breathalyzer.

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Did he also tamper with the breathalyzer at the scene that could not find any trace of alcohol?

I think that the cop relied too much on bad information and not enough on his own observations.

1). Officer Cummings did not administer a roadside breath test according to his report. He administered field sobriety tests and got an admission from Bannister that YES he had "one beer".

2). If you had actually read the police report you would know that Cummings did INDEED rely on his observations of Bannister's driving when a car in the other lane had to "jam on his brakes" to prevent from rear ending Bannister as Bannister illegally changed lanes. I assume Cummings' observations are likely backed up by the dash cam?? Cummings also said Bannister had a strong odor of alcohol fwiw.

Here read it yourself... http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/BannisterDUIReport.pdf

It's too bad none of the Atlanta media has the balls to post up the statements from the employees and other witnesses inside the restaurant. Probably not until Creative Loafing get their hands on it will we get a chance to read pages 2,3,4, etc...

Bannister's "one beer" story when he was stopped became a "one or two beerS" story by the time they got to the police station. The arresting officer (Cummings) was not the officer that conducted the breath test on the InToxilyzer 5000 back at the station either. Oh I'm sure Officer Casal was standing over Bannister with a cat o nine tails yelling "BLOW HARDER YOU DRUNK *** OLD MAN, COME ON BLOW DAMMITT!! MORE!!! HARDER!!!! ALL THE WAY IN *****!!!

Yeah right! :rolleyes::rolleyes:

For all we know Bannister was blowing out his nose with his lip on the hose. Also the blood sample was booked into the Gwinnett County Evidence Room before the GBI or anybody else got their hands on it.

So is it possible for Bannister to have two beers and metabolize the alcohol in the approximate 90 minutes from the time he left the Wing Cafe and the time he blew into the Intoxilyzer 5000?? Sure. If he really only had one or two beers he could have blown zero in 90-120 minutes. But he also could have blown zero if Officer Casal didn't administer the breathalyzer test properly or consistent with all other DUI arrests. And God knows how much time between the breath test at the station and when the blood sample was actually drawn at the hospital. Could've been midnight for all we know. That fine detail isn't in the report.

On top of all that, Georgia has two ways to prosecute DUI -- empirical scientific analysis and being observed as "less safe" operating a motor vehicle. Bannister's charges were dropped despite the other "less safe" evidence that would probably still hold up in court if these charges were against you, me, the candlestick maker, or anybody else who isn't a Gwinnett County commissioner.

It's just plain ludicrous.

<_<

Edited by terryowens__
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1). Officer Cummings did not administer a roadside breath test according to his report. He administered field sobriety tests and got an admission from Bannister that YES he had "one beer".

2). If you had actually read the police report you would know that Cummings did INDEED rely on his observations of Bannister's driving when a car in the other lane had to "jam on his brakes" to prevent from rear ending Bannister as Bannister illegally changed lanes. I assume Cummings' observations are likely backed up by the dash cam?? Cummings also said Bannister had a strong odor of alcohol fwiw.

Here read it yourself... http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/BannisterDUIReport.pdf

It's too bad none of the Atlanta media has the balls to post up the statements from the employees and other witnesses inside the restaurant. Probably not until Creative Loafing get their hands on it will we get a chance to read pages 2,3,4, etc...

Bannister's "one beer" story when he was stopped became a "one or two beerS" story by the time they got to the police station. The arresting officer (Cummings) was not the officer that conducted the breath test on the InToxilyzer 5000 back at the station either. Oh I'm sure Officer Casal was standing over Bannister with a cat o nine tails yelling "BLOW HARDER YOU DRUNK *** OLD MAN, COME ON BLOW DAMMITT!! MORE!!! HARDER!!!! ALL THE WAY IN *****!!!

Yeah right! :rolleyes::rolleyes:

For all we know Bannister was blowing out his nose with his lip on the hose. Also the blood sample was booked into the Gwinnett County Evidence Room before the GBI or anybody else got their hands on it.

So is it possible for Bannister to have two beers and metabolize the alcohol in the approximate 90 minutes from the time he left the Wing Cafe and the time he blew into the Intoxilyzer 5000?? Sure. If he really only had one or two beers he could have blown zero in 90-120 minutes. But he also could have blown zero if Officer Casal didn't administer the breathalyzer test properly or consistent with all other DUI arrests. And God knows how much time between the breath test at the station and when the blood sample was actually drawn at the hospital. Could've been midnight for all we know. That fine detail isn't in the report.

On top of all that, Georgia has two ways to prosecute DUI -- empirical scientific analysis and being observed as "less safe" operating a motor vehicle. Bannister's charges were dropped despite the other "less safe" evidence that would probably still hold up in court if these charges were against you, me, the candlestick maker, or anybody else who isn't a Gwinnett County commissioner.

It's just plain ludicrous.

<_<

Weren't the field sobriety tests given to him not recommended for someone his age?

Maybe I am wrong, but the only way they should be able to prosecute is based on empirical scientific analysis. That observed crap is what got me a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt when I was.

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