Bannister’s Blood Test Results Negative After Set-Up DUI Arrest

Gwinnett Law Enforcement may have a bit of egg on their face today after Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister’s blood test results came back negative. Despite having blown a 0.00 on a breathalizer, Bannister was still taken to jail in handcuffs.

The arrest was made after a “concerned citizen” informed the Sheriff’s Department that Bannister was driving drunk. While the Sheriff’s office contends that Bannister failed field sobriety tests, both their test and one from a hospital did not detect alcohol in Bannister’s system.

I’m aware of a similar incident happening in Fayette County more than 20 years ago, when the Chairman of the local Republican party (and I believe a candidate for the General Assembly) was pulled over by 6 police cars (and with a local newspaper present) after leaving a local restaurant. He was on the front page of said paper the next morning as being arrested for DUI, but tests later revealed he also had a 0.00 BAC.

It’s hard to un-ring a bell of a fake DUI arrest, but a thorough investigation of this “concerned citizen” needs to be conducted, along with any ties to the Sheriff’s department or others in Gwinnett Government. There’s plenty to be angry at the Gwinnett Commission about these days, but faking a DUI arrest turns out of touch commissioners into citizens deserving of sympathy.

Woe be unto those who concocted this abuse of government power.


    • Jace Walden says:

      …yeah, the officer that cuffed him and took him into the station after he blew a goose egg.

      • polisavvy says:

        Agreed! This stunk from the very beginning. Someone has a whole lot of explaining to do on this one.

  1. drjay says:

    then what was his deal with not being able to recite the alphabet? from reading the first article, that and his admission to having had a couple of beers led them down the blood test road…

    • Provocateur says:

      Not all older Americans can recite the alphabet at any random moment of 1 second after he/she is asked to do so. Bannister is 71. How old are you drjay?

      • drjay says:

        i’m in my 30’s, i was not trying to be flippant, i was just asking the question, b/c as has been pointed out, this is an odd story all the way around. i had no idea how old bannister is, he isn’t in the paper a lot in sav’h, or if your alphabet assertion is accurate. i think it’s too bad about the dash cams, b/c it might have helped put the stop in context…

    • analogkid says:

      It’s because field sobriety tests are designed for only one purpose, and that is to prove the cop’s case in court that the suspect was drunk. This is a perfect example of how police use them to incriminate people that are not intoxicated.

    • redrock says:

      This whole thing smelled fishy from day one. Glad the commissioner was exonerated. Too bad they ran his name through the mud hole first.

      I’d guess his “one or two” beers dissipated by the time they got him to jail and then took him to Gwinnett Medical. Could be why the blood test showed .000 t00.

      • macho says:

        Nice that Gwinnett admitted their breathlizers don’t work. It gives the DUI defense lawyers plenty of fodder.

  2. B Balz says:

    Tales of the Weird.

    Is the man cagey enough to intentionally embarrass Sheriff Conroy by staging the whole event?

  3. TPNoGa says:

    I just read the AJC story. If I am reading this correctly, he was at a sports bar drinking beer and a patron called the police. When Bannister exited the sports bar, a cop was waiting. Then he made an “illegal” lane change and was pulled over.

    So, if I see someone do something as shocking as drink a beer at a bar, I need to alert the police? The police will respond to a call regarding people drinking in a bar? REALLY?!? Something stinks here. The cop needs to be grilled by someone outside Gwinnett County.

    • TheSituation says:

      I bet Mayo would call the cops since he probably thinks it is morally wrong to drink a beer, unless of course you are Eric “wish I were a Reynolds” Johnson.

  4. Doug Grammer says:

    I hate to ask this because I am very pro law enforcement, but we only have the deputy to verify that Com. Bannister couldn’t recite the alphabet?

    • Lawton Sack says:

      That’s why I was wondering about if it was videotaped or not. Seeing something with your own eyes is a lot better than trying to make a determination off of a he said/she said circumstance.

    • Rick Day says:

      You…you aren’t from around these parts, are you?

      Judges and prosecutors automatically grant, as fellow “officers of the court” the unquestioning ability to openly lie on the stand. And many times, they do, because the conviction is a team effort, yo! Everyone’s got ‘numbers’ (quotas) to make.

      It’s all a sham, and not a damn thing will be done about this. You may support the people behind that badge, but damn you for supporting THIS system the badge has come to represent.

    • hannah says:

      Police officers enjoy what is known as “qualified immunity.” It means that, if an officer follows the routine he was trained to follow and is qualified to enforce the law, the justice system assumes him/her to be objective (not self-interested) and any error is simply a mistake. Consequently, there are no negative consequences to erroneous reports and misstatements of fact. Besides, because people are typically eager to “correct” the record, errors in police reports serve to reveal the truth for those higher up the judicial ladder.
      There is no incentive for the police to be accurate.
      Also, “citizen complaints” are a much-favored starting point for a whole slew of errors, especially since they’re considered confidential. A citizen complaint is like the failure to use a turn signal going into a Y or changing lanes–it’s an assertion that’s impossible to disprove or even challenge. By the time you’re pulled over, the signal has turned off.
      This is not, btw, a regional issue. It’s what they teach/preach at organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which offers seminars and “accreditation” programs whose primary objective is to insure that lawsuits against law enforcement agencies by aggrieved innocents don’t result in adverse judgments that have to be paid out of the insurance funds. “training” and “standards” are the universal solution to the assignment of responsibility. Bet you didn’t know that standards are designed to counteract liability — or that prosecutors have managed to transform the qualified immunity of the police into absolute immunity for themselves.

  5. bowersville says:

    I read several of the articles available at the AJC. Some things that garner my attention are; the arresting officer, apparently a line Deputy, was following orders from a Deputy of the Lt. grade which is supervisor level.

    The Deputies set up and observed until Bannister drove off looking for probable cause to stop the vehicle, the improper lane change. One AJC article stated Bannister was stopped and a Deputy observed Bannister as nervous and shaking…that might explain the trouble with the ABC’s. Also the article reported a running fued with the Sheriff…another reason for Bannister to be nervous and have trouble with ABCs. I don’t know anything about Bannister, but a diabetic will sometimes demonstrate failed field sobriety tests with their actions and responses.

    Other problems; why did the Deputies set up and observe and let Bannister drive away? If the phone call was to believed by the Deputies that Bannister was drinking wasn’t it in order to stop him before becoming a danger? Would any other citizen of Gwinnett in a sports bar garner this much attention over two beers? What motivated the Deputies? Entrapment?

    I would love to know who placed the original phone call. From what I read the call was direct and not a 911 call. Fishy all around.

  6. Crug says:

    The really odd item here is that Gwinnett County has a police department. The Sheriffs in the county serve subpoenas, tend to the jails and the courts. They normally do not enforce traffic laws or do DUI busts. A call to 911 would have been routed to the Gwinnett PD. This has setup written all over it.

  7. debbie0040 says:

    Chairman Bannister was driving a county car while not on county business and he was drinking. He should not get the county car back.
    The Sheriff should reprimand the Deputy and his supervisor…

  8. macho says:

    A few thoughts:

    1. If you are going to try to set somebody up for a DUI, at least make sure they are drunk.

    2. Even if they are drunk, I’m not sure if it’s legal for the police to wait outside a bar, as the targeted patron gets smashed, then follow the patron, eagerly hoping he makes a traffic violation so that you can bust him.

    2. (a) If this is legal then why don’t the police stand in the parking lot of the local watering hole and knock on the patrons’ windows the minute they start their cars up?

    3. Let’s assume the patron was smashed, as the policeman waited in his car, barely able to contain his joy, hoping to bust him on DUI. Then patron pulls out of the parking lot, as the Deputy follows him, the patron plows into a family killing some kids, but the Deputy does get his traffic violation. Does they Deputy (and in turn the County) have any liability, for suspecting a person was drunk, but watching him stagger into a car, then letting him drive onto the public roads (instead of intervening), all in attempts of creating some sham excuse for not making it look like you were targeting him in the first place?

  9. Doug Deal says:

    Easy solution. Follow Glenn Reynolds’s advice and repeal sovereign immunity. To counter frivolous harrassing lawsuits, institute loser pays and for extreme cases disbarment for the attorneys and fines for their clients.

    • Rick Day says:

      I just spent the last 35 minutes reviewing the subject, including nexis articles and 2 SCOTUS decisions.

      Thanks a LOT for blowing my afternoon, heh

      • Doug Deal says:

        Well, I hope you just feel like you blew it, but found it rewarding, and didn’t feel like you wasted it. I do not offer guarentees, expressed OR implied.

  10. Progressive Dem says:

    I’m the first to agree that law enforcement officers have a very difficult job. We grant law enforcement officers the greatest discretion in our society. They have the discretion to use deadly force. This job requires judgement, and sadly the officers involved in this incident used very poor judgement.

    If they were acting on a tip of a potential drunk driver, they should have intervened before the driver entered the vehicle and endangered himself and the public. The “problem” if there was one didn’t have to be resolved by busting somebody. They could have used their discretion and judgement to find a better solution than using their powers of arrest. Sadly this officer and his superior were more than willing to flaunt and display the power and authority of the police. If it emabarassed the Commission Chairman that’s just another notch on their belt. We don’t need cops on power trips, or with political agendas, or with racial biases. They make bad decisions. They end up targeting innocent people and using their authority inappropriately. The officers should be disciplined, and if there is more to this story than a bad decision, somebody deserves to be fired.

    In the meantime, the Sheriff and the deputy need to man up and apologize to Bannister to his face.

  11. polisavvy says:

    Just as we figured. DUI charges to be dropped. Now, the fun should begin. Bannister should not stop until he gets to the bottom of this. Something tells me that, contrary to what Sheriff Conway said, there was political motivation involved.

    • hannah says:

      It’s a civil matter. The only sever consequence could be dismissal from office and/or a money judgment to compensate the victim–paid out of the public purse, either directly or in higher insurance premiums.
      “Deprivation of rights under color of law” is a crime. However, for that to be charged and proved, the perpetrator has to be after a personal, tangible benefit (like seizing contraband to sell or use himself).
      Deprivation of rights under cover of law is standard practice. Keep in mind that the amendments to the Constitution prohibit “unreasonable” behavior by our agents of government. Add standards and the “un” virtually disappears. It isn’t even necessary for Congress to approve electronic snooping, but it helps put people on notice that the “right to privacy” is an ephemeral one.
      The deprivation of the right to liberty was initially legal, if a person had been legally purchased. It was called slavery. Even today, “involuntary servitude” is legal, if the person has volunteered to be in chains. The U.S. Army calls it “stop loss.” It’s legality rests on the same theory as traditional marriage — i.e. a commitment to be subordinate, once made, cannot be unilaterally dissolved. That’s what conservatism is all about — the permanence of power relationships.
      Perhaps Bannister had “gotten too big for his britches.”

      • BJ Van Gundy says:

        In whose opinion was he was “too big for his britches” Hannah?

        Is it up to the Sheriff to falsely accuse and arrest someone that is “too big for his britches” in order to bring them down to size? Really?

        Your legal analysis was quite good and had me shaking my head somewhat in agreement (although I’d prefer it wasn’t correct)…. It was somewhat astounding to me that you then appeared to endorse what was done, though, as admissible, as long as the person was “too big for his britches.”

        I’m hoping that was said tongue firmly planted in cheek? Yes?

  12. BJ Van Gundy says:

    What I find bothersome, in addition to the fact that a good friend of mine was falsely accused of DUI, locked up, and paraded to the hospital in chains, is the lack of knowledge of basic alcohol metabolism by the Sheriff’s Deputies… the fact is, “3 or 4 beers” as was reported to have been consumed by the so-called concerned citizens (aka, the now husband of the ex-wife of the first OFF DUTY Deputy notified) will, in the typical size male, bring blood alcohol content to .06-.08. IF! That 3 or 4 beers was consumed instantaneously! As was reported, the chairman had been there a couple of hours with a couple of other individuals. As the chairman is reported to have stated, he had 1 or 2 beers…. which, if consumed INSTANTANEOUSLY, would have produced a BAC of .02-.04.

    Consuming beer instantaneously, being relegated pretty much to Fraternity parties, bachelor parties and such, is not what is in question here however… the consumption occurred over several (2-3) hours while there was also food consumed.

    A quick playing with the calculator at this site, , shows that BAC after 1-2 beers and 3 hours (approximately/conservatively the amount of time from beginning consumption and driving/testing) produces a BAC of 0.000. 3 beers produces a .005 BAC and 4 beers produces a .029 BAC.

    Given that the so-called “concerned citizen” stated that he had witnessed Bannister, over a period of time, drink 3-4 beers, this still shouldn’t have raised the issue of DUI concerns based upon the above calculations.

    And most certainly the Sheriff’s Deputies should have this sort of knowledge passed along to them in their training, that is, that BAC diminishes with TIME and that the rules of thumb for calculation of BAC is that a typically sized male (160-180) can metabolized ~.02 BAC per hour and that a beer adds ~.02 BAC.

    There should have been NO DOUBT regarding the .00 Breathalyzer test based upon the Chairman’s statement that he had had 1 or 2 beers…. and should have been LITTLE DOUBT even given the higher estimate of consumption statement by the so-called “concerned citizen”.

    These Deputies should know this simple math and should NOT have pursued the blood test.

    I would additionally add however that I think that the ARRESTING officer did have a basic knowledge of this information and that is why the extensive effort to gather evidence was pursued. How often do you think that DUI arrests include the gathering of statements by individuals at the establishment that the accused had been imbibing at? How often do you think that the DUI investigation goes to the establishment and requests a special receipt be printed showing the food and beverage purchase… especially since the arresting officer already had in his hand a copy of the receipt that he took from the Chairman’s car?

    The fact is, when the pull over of the Chairman was made, the Deputies knew they were on thin ground and decided to go chasing other evidence thinking it would overcome the FACT that the Chairman was not impaired.

    The bottom line is that they were either not truthful in the way that they informed the Sheriff that the event went down, or that they were men with a cause…. let the facts be damned.

    I’m glad the GBI is investigating but am also concerned that this may be swept under the rug. Basic metabolic calculations show that there was no reason to suspect Mr. Bannister of being DUI to begin with.

    It is my contention that through the last two elections for Chairman, the Sheriff, by his negative tone and vocalization of his feelings toward the Chairman, has created a culture within the Sheriff’s department that gave the Deputies an attitude of opportunism with regard to taking down the Chairman.

    This they thought was their opportunity…. I hope it is their Waterloo.

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