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Denial of Bond in Georgia Hit and Run

speeding-1-1091825-m.jpgIn Prigmore v. State, the defendant was arrested for a hit and run under OCGA § 40-6-270. He was also arrested for vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and driving under the influence of drugs.

Under the hit and run statute, a driver of any vehicle that is involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to anybody is required to stop the car at the scene. If the driver can’t stop right at the scene, he or she must stop as close to the scene as possible and go back to the scene to give help to the victims. For a first conviction, the defendant must be fined between $300 and $1,000, which may not be subject to suspension, stay, or probation, or imprisoned for up to 12 months.

In Prigmore v. State, the defendant was driving along Lawrenceville Highway, crossed a lane of traffic, left the road, drove along the sidewalk, and struck and killed a woman and her six-year-old daughter. After hitting the pedestrians, the defendant came back to the roadway and kept driving for about a quarter of a mile, then parked in a business drive-thru. Witnesses told the police where he was.

The police came to the defendant where he was sitting in the car. The defendant seemed upset and asked whether he had killed “them.” He was taken into custody. The police officers said he was so intoxicated they couldn’t get a statement. He was read the implied consent law, but he refused to take the test. The police got a search warrant for a blood draw. He was put on suicide watch while incarcerated because he was so upset.

The defendant didn’t testify at the bond hearing but put forward several witnesses to testify about his community ties. The government got testimony that the man had multiple DUI convictions. The defendant had a criminal record involving a drug charge, a battery conviction, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and a shoplifting conviction. The government argued he might flee if released on bail and pointed to the evidence that he left the scene after running over pedestrians and that he only stopped because his vehicle could no longer be operated.

The trial court denied bond. In Georgia, a trial court can release a defendant on bail when it finds that the defendant doesn’t present a significant risk of fleeing from the court’s jurisdiction or failing to appear in court, presents no significant danger to anybody, and presents no significant risk of witness intimidation or obstructing justice.

The defendant filed an interlocutory appeal. When determining whether it was wrong to deny bond, the appellate court applies a flagrant abuse standard. In this case, the trial court had been concerned about the defendant’s threat to himself if released and his history of drunk driving. It was also worried he would flee. The trial court worried that the defendant had a significant risk of committing additional felonies while trial was pending.

The appellate court concluded that there was evidence to support the underlying basis for the trial court’s conclusions. Therefore, it couldn’t say the trial court had flagrantly abused its discretion, regardless of whether it agreed with the findings. It affirmed the lower court.

If you are accused of a hit and run or other crime in Georgia, there may be serious consequences. Contact experienced criminal defense attorney Tom Nagel at (404) 255-1600 or via our online form.

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