The case of an Effingham County woman charged with driving under the influence and causing a four-vehicle crash was resolved Tuesday morning, in both record time and with a most optimal outcome which is significantly less than the state mandatory minimums.
According to court documents filed in Effingham County, a Rincon woman, K.S.O, was arrested for Driving Under the Influence (Less Safe)(Combined Influence) and Aggressive Driving on January 26, 2022. The Accusation filed in Effingham County State Court states that K.S.O was driving a 2021 Dodge Charger when she weaved ‘in and out of traffic, was following too closely, and ran into stopped traffic causing a 4 car crash.’ K.S.O refused any type of testing and was taken to the Effingham County Jail where she was later released.
K.S.O appeared in court on June 9, 2022 and was given a ‘Notice of Return’ for an Arraignment on August 11, 2022. Court documents denote that K.S.O was granted a continuance of sixty days in order to hire an attorney.
The case, however, was placed on the Arraignment calendar for June 14, 2022 -just five days later- along with almost a dozen other cases for individuals represented by the same defense attorney.
Defendant Returns with Attorney
On Tuesday, K.S.O appeared in state court with her attorney, Edward Reddick, and entered a plea of ‘Nolo Contendere’ on the DUI charge. A ‘Nolo Contendere’ plea is one in which an individual accepts a conviction as though a guilty plea had been entered but does not admit guilt. Solicitor Rick Rafter also dismissed the Aggressive Driving altogether. Stephen Sims, who is serving as an interim State Court Judge in Effingham County, accepted the plea agreement, which imposed a $874 fine, requires 12 months of probation, and mandates K.S.O complete D.U.I. school.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s deputy who made the arrest and worked the crash, and who also who appears on the list of State Witnesses on the Accusation, was not present for court Tuesday morning. Arraignments are not traditionally appearances for which law enforcement officials are present as they are merely formalities in which a defendant is notified of the charges against them. Court records also lack any documentation indicating the deputy was notified of the court appearance.
But K.S.O bypassed the Arraignment process and entered a plea on Tuesday instead.
In both the criminal citation and the Accusation prepared by the Solicitor’s Office, K.S.O is charged under OCGA 40-6-391. Subsection (c)(1) reads that ‘every person conviction of this code section shall, upon a first or second conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor and and shall be punished as follows:
- A fine of $300 to $1,000;
- A period of imprisonment of not fewer than ten days nor more than twelve months, which period of imprisonment may, at the sole discretion of the judge, be suspended, stayed, probated…
- Not fewer than 40 hours of community service
- Completion of a DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction program within 120 days (DUI school)
- A clinical evaluation for drugs and alcohol, (this can be waived at court’s discretion)
- If a person is sentenced to a period of imprisonment for less than 12 months, a period of probation of 12 month less any days during which the person is actually incarcerated.
Subsection (c) (6) of that same code section reads “For the purpose of imposing a sentence under this subsection, a plea of nolo contendere based on a violation of this code section shall constitute a conviction.”
But K.S.O’s sentence clearly omits any reference to:
- B) a period of imprisonment, even if all is suspended;
- C) 40 hours of community service imposed;
- E) A clinical evaluation or a waiver of such
- F) Any math which would divide the period of incarceration and probation.
Effingham’s Track Record With DUIs
This is certainly not the first occurrence of such a reduction in Effingham County. Last month, The Georgia Virtue published an article detailing the unusual dismissal rate of driving under the influence cases in Effingham County State Court. In that piece, TGV questioned why so many cases were reduced to ‘lesser offenses’ but still included DUI-like sentences if individuals were, in fact, not guilty of DUI. The data in that article revealed that an overwhelming number of the dismissed and reduced cases in Effingham County were attributed to clients represented by two attorneys – one of them being Edward Reddick.