The charges against a Hall County school board member were reduced more than 11 months after the original charges were filed, according to court documents.
Mark Pettitt, who was originally arrested in December 2018, was charged in a Sept. 13, 2019, accusation with driving under the influence of alcohol-less safe and failure to maintain lane.
The Forsyth County Solicitor’s Office filed an amended accusation Aug. 21, changing the charges to reckless driving and failure to maintain lane. The file became available earlier this month from the Hall County Clerk of Courts.
According to the reckless driving charge, Pettitt was accused of driving a car “in reckless disregard for the safety of persons and property due to the alcohol he consumed prior to driving.”
Pettitt was originally arrested Dec. 15, 2018, by Gainesville Police. He was stopped near the intersection of EE Butler and Jesse Jewell parkways.
According to a Gainesville Police report, he declined a standardized field sobriety test and a blood test.
When an officer is investigating a suspected DUI case, the officer must read the Georgia implied consent law.
"Georgia law requires you to submit to state administered chemical tests … for the purpose of determining if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” according to the law. “If you refuse this testing, your Georgia driver's license or privilege to drive on the highways of this state will be suspended for a minimum period of one year.
Tests can include breath, blood or urine, and refusal of the last two forms can be used against the person in court.
A 2019 Georgia Supreme Court ruling said refusing a breath test could not be used against you in court. Law enforcement can ask a judge to issue a warrant for a blood draw.
The case has moved multiple times to different jurisdictions, from Gainesville Municipal Court to the Hall County Solicitor’s Office. Hall County prosecutors then recused themselves and sent the case to the Forsyth County Solicitor’s Office.
Forsyth County Solicitor-General William Finch declined to discuss the change in the charges or the reasons why the case has been delayed for so long.
“We have been working on this case for almost two years,” Pettitt’s defense attorney Graham McKinnon said. “I applaud the prosecutor’s decision to reduce the charge. It’s time for Mark Pettitt to move on.”
Both Finch and McKinnon said they expect the case to be closed soon, with McKinnon estimating it to be done in the next 30 days.