DUI enforcement policies vary widely across Atlanta region

DUI enforcement policies vary widely among police departments across the Atlanta region, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation.

The Atlanta Police Department’s policy makes it optional for officers to seek search warrants to get blood samples from DUI suspects who refuse to submit to blood tests for sobriety. In contrast, Gwinnett County’s policy appears to say that practice is mandatory for certain officers under similar circumstances. It’s optional in Cobb County — with approval from a supervisor.

In Dunwoody, where Police Chief Billy Grogan disagrees with forcibly taking blood from DUI suspects, the Police Department’s policy prohibits officers from seeking the warrants. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the DeKalb County Police Department have no written policies specifically addressing the matter, though their officers do use the warrants.

The AJC looked into these policies as part of an investigation of an April 15 fatal car crash in Atlanta involving Ryan Lisabeth, 28, of Canton. He has been charged with driving under the influence of heroin and vehicular homicide. Police say Lisabeth plowed into three boys who were walking on a sidewalk along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. One of the boys died from injuries he sustained in the wreck, police said, and two others are recovering from serious injuries.

A month before his arrest, Lisabeth – who has two DUI convictions on his record — was found not guilty of a DUI drugs charge from 2013 in Fulton County. He refused to submit to a blood test in that incident and Atlanta police did not seek a search warrant to obtain a blood sample from him.