The PTC manager's sentence was too severe...

mapleleaf's picture

Nothing sacred about the law…

As I stated previously, the punishment meted out to the PTC manager was, in my opinion, much too severe, and the law under which he was punished was inappropriate as he was treated as if driving a car upon a public highway while he was only operating a golf cart in a parking lot leading to a cart path.

We encountered that kind of problem nearly three years ago, when a man was arrested for driving without a driver’s license on the PTC cart path. The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the cart path was a “highway,” as defined in our Georgia Code, from which the PTC police concluded that a driver’s license was required to drive on the PTC cart path.

As a result, hundreds of PTC residents who regularly drove on the PTC cart path without having a driver’s license (because of age or medical condition) were told they could no longer drive on it. That was a grave inconvenience for these innocent people.

Then Mayor Steve Brown and others went to work to get our Georgia law corrected by the legislature, and on April 22, 2004, an amendment to Code section 40-6-331 became effective that made it lawful for people without a Georgia driver’s license to drive on the PTC cart path again.

So here we have a new twist on this golf cart saga. The paths are no longer “highways” requiring a driver’s license to be driven on, but the carts are “cars” if you drive them while tipsy.

I think it’s a lack of common sense not to distinguish between carts and cars, just like it was a lack of common sense not to distinguish between real highways and cart paths. A thinking person would see a difference. A robot would not, of course, as it always does what it was programmed to do, with no questions asked and not a doubt in the world.

Our laws are enacted by legislators. They enact many dumb ones, and there’s nothing sacred about them. These laws can be tweaked, changed or improved.

The role of judges is to apply the law fairly and make allowance for the sometimes robotic nature of laws with unintended consequences. The prosecutor and judge do not seem to have done that in the PTC manager’s case.

The role of legislators is to enact just laws. When laws are found to produce unjust results, a sensitive, intelligent legislator works toward correcting them.

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Submitted by Dalmation195 on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 8:40am.

The law has always been the same. Not only does it apoply to golf carts, it applies to riding lawn mowers and even electric wheelchairs. I will copy the law into this comment for you to peruse as well as the link for you to find it on your own.

I do not know if the PTC City Manager was intoxicated because he refused to take a state administered test. If he had, it may have been found that he was below the legal limit, and therefore not in violation of the law.

As for the golfers that are driving and drinking on the golf course, they too are in violation of the law (even on the golf course)!

(a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while:
(1) Under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;

Now, I did not copy the entire law into this, The link follows that you can go a read on your own. Please read carefully the ANY MOVING VEHICLE portion of the law and that will make the law very clear to you.

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 10:50am.

You forgot to read the very first section of Georgia Code Title 40, one of the most important sections in this whole law. Section 40-1-1 (75) defines "vehicle" as meaning "every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn UPON A HIGHWAY, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks."

I haven't seen too many riding lawn mowers or electric wheelchairs used upon highways, and neither have you (while sober). "Highway" is also defined at subsection (19), and it does not include private golf course cart paths.

Obviously, I have learned more law than you have!

Submitted by Dalmation195 on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 11:32am.

It has been held in Georgia case law that a vehicle (in so far as the DUI laws are concerned) can be virtually any motorized vehicle. It also must not necessarily be on a "Highway, byway or thoroughfare" for there to be a DUI Charge.

This passage was found at and supports my position:

Vehicle Defined

Inherently, every DUI statute prohibits a person from driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle. The problem arises where the law fails to provide the type of devices that it intends to be covered or fails to define the terms that are used in the statute. Ultimately, because the statute is not specific enough, the final determination is left up to the courts.

Most DUI statutes use the terms "vehicle" and "motor vehicle". The Uniform Vehicle Code uses the term "vehicle". Obviously, the term “vehicle” is broader in scope than motor vehicle. For example, one court rejected an argument that the defendant’s automobile was not a vehicle since it was stuck in the mud it did not have the ability or capacity to transport. Some statutes define a vehicle as a device to transport people; hence a road roller was not considered a vehicle.

Still, courts have determined that most devices with a motor satisfy the “vehicle” definition. Golf carts and farm tractors have been held to be vehicles even though they do not strictly transport people. On the other hand, bicycles, horses and snowmobiles have been held to be vehicles in some states, but not others.

The fact of the matter is this:

1. Severe injury and death can occur by a golf cart accident. The cart could hit a pedestrian or bicyclist while being driven on the path and cause great injury.

2. He should have submitted to the state administered test as is the implied consent he gave when he obtained a license in Georgia to drive. A driver's license is a priveledge, not a right. There are certain responsibilities that go hand in hand with the priveledge of possessing a driver's license. One of those is that one MUST submit to the STATE ADMINISTERED CHEMICAL TEST. He (as do all of us) have the absolute right to refuse any field sobriety tests, but not the
State test. had he submitted to toe test, it may have been found that he was not culpable after all, but we will never know.

3. I am sure that he hired a competant attorney, and why would he plead guilty if the law did not apply to golf carts?

You may not like the law, but it is there. Contact you state Legislators and attempt to have it changed. It is just irresponsible to operate and vehicle after having consumed alcohol.

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 11:17pm.

Hey, public drunkenness is public drunkenness, whether standing on the street corner, riding a bike or driving. Being drunk in public, in and of itself, is an inherent danger, to both the drunken person and the public at-large.

You can be arrested for being drunk while riding a bike, a riding lawn mower or a horse. The singular view of "am I not a danger to the public at large" while drunk is only part of the legal test. The other measure is "do I pose a danger to myself."

I would say that operating any type of vehicle while drunk is dangerous, if only to the operator himself. For generations we never took drunkennes seriously, that is until a large number of mothers who had lost their children to drunkenness gathered one day and determined that the death of their offspring should not go in vain. Mothers Against Drunk Driving have gotten tougher laws in almost every state.

It use to be you could be convicted of a third DUI and still keep your drivers license under certain conditions. Thank God those days have changed.

Eyinvest cited Steve Brown's work on solidifying our rights to drive golf carts permanently in the state law. Even though McDonoughDawg, idontknow and Pandora might disagree, it was a great achievement and I'll give him that. However, probably Brown's greatest achievement was the ban on smoking in public places. Our current mayor, the one that lied to us about tax increases, actually fought the effort to keep second hand cigarette smoke away from our children. I was there in the meetings at the library that I saw Logsdon saying that we have the "right to smoke in front in people" within confined spaces, unbelievable. I voted for Logsdon mainly for tax relief and to stop the squabbling, probably made a mistake.

We don't have a God given right to place ourselves or the public in danger, whether it be drugs, smoking or drunkenness. Unfortunately, it only becomes a serious issue when someone close to us dies.

Sorry to get on the soap box, but this issue is close to my heart.

Vote Republican

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 6:15pm.

The fifth item under Golf Cart Safety says, “All operators must abide by all traffic regulations applicable to vehicular traffic.

End of story.

Submitted by dopplerobserver on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 5:39pm.

Well, I simply agree with you---oh yes, by all means, I mean it! Just what right does a policeman have asking someone to take a drunk test, and then be refused by the drunk, anyway? The man almost spilled his drink arguing. Threatened the power to come down on the cop too. Simply can't have that here, cops being so forceful. As a matter of fact, I don't think any policeman has ever done that at the Amphitheater before. It has been forbidden to check drunks there and at the closing of local bars for sometime. Why, we would eliminate half of the town's elite. We can't have that, why, there aren't enough "smart" people in the county to fill all the positions that they would have to vacate! I simply can't imagine a town such as ours (PTC) being sober all the time. Why it would cause things to happen at night and on week-ends that doesn't now happen. Too much good would be done.

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 2:32pm.

Like you, I can see the difference. IF there is no difference, why do 12 year olds get to sit with adults and drive golf carts in our great City? I assume the folks saying there is no difference, would have no problem with a 12 year old driving down the Parkway, assuming their parents were in the front seat with them. Fair is fair.

I am not saying no punishment is necessary, but to view them the same (as cars) is not being honest with the facts in the way we allow the carts to be used.

ExExPatriot's picture
Submitted by ExExPatriot on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 2:26pm.

But, like operating a vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of a mind altering substance, it is stupid.

However, unlike the chainsaw situation, a huge percentage of vehicular deaths and injuries are alcohol related. Thats why the DUI laws are on the books; to protect (PREVENT) against injury and death.

Can death and injury be caused by a golf cart? Naw. So lets let everyone drive carts drunk on the paths.

I think the punishment was not only appropriate, I also think his position should reviewed. If he thinks it's ok to drive a cart in violation of existing laws, perhaps there are other laws he doesn't feel he must uphold.
Is that the kind of person we want managing PTC?
- or the country for that matter?

He made the right decision regarding his plea. I would also support him if he decided to contest the case as far as he possibly can; our country is based on the accused having their day in court (well, except for those Gitmo people).
He made the right decision regarding the plea, perhaps he even agrees with the law and understands his error, maybe he shouldn't be crucified.

But too severe? You've never had to push one of them carts or had one hit you so must not understand the damage they can do.

Hey einvest, I'll bet yer one ah them there bleedin' heart libs, huh? Smiling

PTC Guy's picture
Submitted by PTC Guy on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 11:15am.

Maybe you think it is okay for drunks to be on the cartpaths.

Tell that to people who have been run off the paths, brushed or even hit.

The paths contain walkers who have children and pets with them. Not to mention elderly.

Getting hit by a drunk is an serious issue for them.

I am not looking it up again, but I did post some stats of golf cart related accidents before. They contained deaths, serious injury and other.

Drunks don't own the paths. And people who believe it is okay to drink and drive do so at their own risk. Not at the risk of others.

Keeping it real and to the core of the issue, not the peripherals.

Submitted by IMNSHO on Sat, 08/12/2006 - 10:05am.

Drunk driving is drunk driving is drunk driving. A golf cart has the potential to hurt others and the one driving it, possibly more so because of the many pedestrians/bikers on the paths, and because of the lack of protection for those on a golf cart. A golf cart accident at 20mph could be devastating. A car accident at that speed is probably a fender bender.

I appreciate those who understand the dangers involved, and are trying to protect us from ourselves and from those that think like you.

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 7:34am.

The punishment meted out to PTC manager McMullen for driving a golf cart under the influence of alcohol in a parking lot was described as follows: He was sentenced to spend 24 hours in jail as required by Georgia law, an $800 fine, a year’s probation, 40 hours of community service and several other conditions such as a ban on alcohol consumption with random drug and alcohol screening. His refusal to submit to an alcohol test also earned him a driver’s license suspension for a year.

Apparently, he got no more and no less than what the average drunk driver gets when caught on the street.

But he wasn’t on the street, and he wasn’t driving a car.

Every day, in just about every country club where golfers tool around in golf carts, there is some drinking by some of the drivers (with open containers). As they are on private property, our Georgia law leaves them alone and they are not subject to arrest. If that’s the cause of serious accidents, we don’t hear a lot about them.

McMullen was not on a private golf course, but he wasn’t on a highway either. And he was not at the wheel of a 2-ton car.

I am willing to bet that when he drove a car McMullen was a lot more careful than when he drove a golf cart. The vehicle is bigger, the speed is higher, and there’s a lot more traffic and signals to worry about. Most of us would be more careful in those circumstances.

I am aware that MADD has convinced a lot of people that to drink and drive is illegal. But what is illegal is drinking to excess and then driving. Drinking in moderation and driving afterwards is legal. That’s why we test when there is suspicion that a driver may be impaired.

Because he wasn’t on the street and was not driving a car, the law, and the judge, should have treated McMullen differently than if he had been driving a car on a public road. That’s my basic point.

What disappoints me about the comments made about this is the absolute lack of charity exhibited by some of my fellow Fayette county citizens. In a county with so many churches, how can we have so many unchristian people with no awareness of the second greatest commandment, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself? (Mark 12:31)

It’s been said that a conservative is a liberal who has just been mugged, and a liberal is a conservative who has just been arrested for a DUI. The day may come where the law will come and bite some of these inflexible uncharitable people, and it will take a lot of effort for people like me to have sympathy for them. (You reap what you sow.)

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 3:44pm.

Eyinvest, your point about drinking in moderation is fine. However, I don't think the city manager's case reflected drinking in moderation.

Looking at the larger picture, if you are allowed to make allowances and turn a blind eye at certain types of unlawfulness, then you should be able to do it across the board, a small amount of drugs while not driving should be acceptable.

I commend your compassion, few have it in today's world, but the law is the law. Drunken people in golf carts pass by pedestrians, bicycles, and they cross public streets, posing a public danger. We can have compassion for the city manager, even with his current sentence, and we ought to show it.

Vote Republican

Submitted by tonto707 on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 12:38pm.

DUI laws address operating a "motor vehicle" while under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating drugs, and a golf cart is indeed a motor vehicle.

Only the Peachtree City police chief would take it to the extreme he did. After one of the officers had called a cab, another phoned the CHIEF and a demand that Bernie take the field test ensued. He refused and the rest is history.

I wish Bernie luck. It was a mistake, we all make mistakes, but it's one you can live down, Bernie.

Submitted by skyspy on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 5:26pm.

They followed the letter of the law. I would have been pi$$@# if they had let him off, just because of his positon. If those officers had let him off or called a cab for him, this city would have been opened up to a lawsuit from everyone ever convicted of DUI here.

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 2:27pm.

”Only the Peachtree City police chief would take it to the extreme he did. After one of the officers had called a cab, another phoned the CHIEF and a demand that Bernie take the field test ensued. He refused and the rest is history.

Where was this information listed?

Basmati's picture
Submitted by Basmati on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 2:49pm.

HERE you go.

There was some discussion about calling a cab for Mr. McMullen.

PTC Guy's picture
Submitted by PTC Guy on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 11:28am.

He was on public property.

On private property there are laws that will bring in police. And the owner is liable for what happens.

So, there is no place without laws, restrictions and liabilities.

Keeping it real and to the core of the issue, not the peripherals.

schnoodle's picture
Submitted by schnoodle on Sun, 08/13/2006 - 9:31am.

You break the law. You face the consequences.

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