An attorney for a man convicted of DUI in Hall County argued to the Georgia Supreme Court Monday, Dec. 10, his client’s prior agreement to plead guilty was akin to a formal guilty plea and should not have been allowed as evidence at trial.
Bob Chestney argued on behalf of Gregory Claude Adams, who was found guilty in May 2017 of DUI, following too closely and failure to maintain lane.
When Adams was pulled over in July 2016, he refused to take the blood test but gave a “formal written ‘stipulation’ that he would enter a guilty plea to the DUI charge,” according to the Georgia Supreme Court’s summary of the case.
Chestney is appealing the Court of Appeals ruling on the case.
“The trial court did not address the value, the need for the evidence by the state, which is a critical element in determining probative value, so the Court of Appeals could have simply and should have simply remanded the case,” Chestney said.
During his oral argument, Hall County assistant solicitor Brian Heck argued the trial court had weighed the evidence before admitting it. Heck also said Adams’ trial counsel did not object to the evidence, which waived the issue on its appeal.
“The Court of Appeals could have made a determination that the trial court did do a balancing test and did it somewhat properly, didn’t allow in evidence it shouldn’t have allowed in evidence,” Heck said.
Heck argued the stipulation to plead guilty, which halted the administrative proceeding on suspending Adams’ license, was “relevant to the fact of whether or not (Adams) believed that he was under the influence of alcohol on the date of his arrest.”
A Georgia State Patrol trooper smelled alcohol and saw Gregory Claude Adams’ eyes were bloodshot when he encountered him July 2, 2016, according to the Georgia Supreme Court’s summary of the case. Adams’ car had hit an embankment after he swerved to avoid another car that had stopped to turn left.
The trooper arrested Adams for DUI and read him the Georgia implied consent notice about submitting to a chemical test for inebriation.
Adams later decided to plead not guilty and head to trial.
“The trial court in entering its ruling on the admissibility of this prior act entered this ruling prior to trial,” Chestney said.
While hearing the arguments, Presiding Justice David Nahmias asked “where do we get the authority to exclude evidence on some basis other than the Constitution or the rules of evidence or a statute.”
Chestney compared it to a formal guilty plea, which a person has the right to revoke without it being used against him.
The justices will issue a ruling, which may be released weeks or months after Monday’s oral arguments.