Atlanta City Councilwoman plans to plead not guilty to DUI charge

Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow was a no-show at the news conference that her lawyers called for Thursday afternoon so she could speak to her constituents after being charged with driving drunk earlier in the week.

She had a scheduled budget meeting and needed to stay at City Hall, her lawyers explained.

So her attorneys spoke for her, saying the city councilwoman would plead not guilty to several charges filed after she was stopped by an Atlanta police officer who reported that she ran a stop sign and a red light, drove on the wrong side of the road and was weaving.

“She actively and eagerly awaits the resolution of this case,” attorney Antavius Weems said.

There were explanations for some of the notations in the officer’s report.

“The cars parked on the side of the street may have distracted her,” Weems said.

While her case moves through the courts, Winslow will appeal the administrative suspension of her license because she refused to take a field sobriety test, said another attorney, Jackie Patterson. Georgia law says the state can suspend the license of a driver who refuses to take a field sobriety test for a year, but that can be avoided with an appeal, Patterson said.

Winslow was stopped around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday about a block from her home in southwest Atlanta because her driving suggested that she was impaired, according to the police report.

She told the officer she had been at a community meeting until around 9 p.m. and then went to a bar on Elliot Street, where she had two dry martinis.

“She seemed very distant/out of it and had a very slow reaction to his questions,” the report said. “She had glassy eyes and was squinting.”

The officer wrote that Winslow could not figure out how to open the car door.

“She could not find the door handle to exit the car. In fact she was turning the car on and off in an attempt to exit the car,” he wrote.

She refused to take a field sobriety test. Consequently, Winslow was charged with DUI alcohol less safe, driving on the wrong side of the road, failure to stop for stop sign, reckless driving and a red light violation. If she is convicted, the maximum punishment is 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Ms. Winslow was having a hard time understanding what was going on,” officer wrote in his report.

Winslow is free on a $3,355 bond, and she scheduled to be in court on June 11.

Winslow admitted to the officer that she had been drinking, according to the report. But Patterson said that is not enough to convict her of driving drunk.

“It’s not illegal to drink and drive in Georgia,” Patterson said. “It is only illegal to drive impaired. We are asserting she was not an impaired driver.”

Despite her pending charges, Winslow is intent on meeting her obligations to her constituents, Weems said.

That is why she went to City Hall as soon as she was released from jail and why she attended a budget meeting Thursday afternoon instead of coming to the news conference, he said.