The Supreme Court of Georgia recently handed down its opinion in the case of Zilke v. State. The court addressed the issue of whether or not the Kennesaw State University (KSU) police had the authority to arrest someone on suspicion of DUI when the arrest did not take place on or around the university. The court determined that the KSU police were limited to their statutorily defined jurisdiction.
Bajrodin Zilke was pulled over in May of 2013 by Decari Mason, a POST-certified KSU officer as Mason was returning to campus. He spotted Zilke "driving without activated headlights or taillights and 'severely failing to maintain lane.'" When Mason stopped Zilke he observed other signs of intoxication as well including Zilke's bloodshot eyes, unsteady gait, and that he smelled of booze. In addition, Zilke admitted that he had drank two beers and failed a roadside breath test. He was arrested and a later breath test "revealed [he had] a blood alcohol level of 0.08." Zilke was charged with "two counts of driving under the influence, failing to maintain lane, and operating a vehicle without headlights." Zilke moved to suppress the results of the breath test, contending that "Mason lacked jurisdiction to arrest him because, without dispute, the traffic stop did not occur on or near KSU property." The trial court granted his motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed this decision. The appellate court held that "a POST-certified campus police officer is authorized to make arrests for traffic offenses committed in his presence though outside the territorial limits of the campus at issue."
The Supreme Court then took up the case and reached a different conclusion than the Court of Appeals. The court looked at , OCGA § 20-3-72, which authorizes campus police to make arrests on the KSU campus as well as "within 500 yards of campus." The court stated that "Mason had no authority to effect a custodial arrest of appellant outside" of his statutorily authorized jurisdiction.
The State also argued that other laws could support Mason's actions. This first was OCGA § 17-4-23 which "authorizes an arrest 'by the issuance of a citation' if a person commits a motor vehicle violation within the law enforcement officer's presence." However, the high court did not agree that this statute would permit Mason to make an arrest outside of his jurisdiction, because it doesn't permit a custodial arrest except if a individual "fails to answer the citation by appearing in court and, then, any apprehension of the person must be made pursuant to a warrant." In addition, the court pointed out that "[n]othing in the statute's history indicates that the legislature ever intended OCGA § 17-4-23 to allow officers to arrest traffic violators outside the jurisdiction of their respective law enforcement agencies." Another statute does permit an officer to make an arrest "without a warrant if '[t]he offense is committed in such officer's presence or within such officer's immediate knowledge.'" However, the court pointed out that nothing in the statute expanded the territory of campus police. Nor did the court find that Mason's POST-certification affected anything, noting that "[b]eing POST-certified simply means the officer has met the minimum requirements to be a 'peace officer' in this state." The certification does not extend an officer's jurisdiction.
The court also looked at whether Mason could have made the arrest as a private person, but did not find this argument compelling. The court noted that the most a citizen could have done was "deliver appellant to a judicial officer or 'deliver [appellant] and all effects removed from [appellant] to a peace officer of this state.'" A private citizen would not have the power to conduct any sort of investigation. The court noted that, though the local police did come to the scene, they left without taking custody of Zilke. If they had stayed, "they could have assumed custody of appellant and then they would have been required to take him to a judicial officer who was authorized to receive an affidavit and to issue a warrant."
The Georgia Supreme Court then reversed the lower court's ruling, stating "[t]he trial court did not err when it determined that Officer Mason did not have any authority to arrest appellant beyond 500 yards of the KSU campus."
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