Perry closer to revised law on intoxication

chwright@macon.comAugust 6, 2013 

PERRY -- More city citations for sitting drunk in a vehicle could be issued in Perry if City Council approves an ordinance amendment it reviewed Tuesday.

“There was a city ordinance in place but I think, perhaps, it wasn’t being charged because the judge wasn’t happy with it,” said John Walker, an associate city attorney.

At its regular council meeting, council read an amendment for the first time that would add a firmer definition of intoxication to the city code in accordance with recommendations from Municipal Court Judge Herbert Wells. The council also approved an annexation that could spur commercial development west of the interstate.

Council is scheduled to vote Aug. 20 on the intoxication amendment.

It is illegal statewide to be intoxicated behind the wheel of a vehicle in a public space, even if that car is not turned on or moving. If someone is charged under the state law, the charge is taken to State Court.

Perry has long had an ordinance on the books that allows officers to cite a violation of local law, sending the case to Municipal Court.

Still, Walker said Wells hasn’t been comfortable with the vague wording of the ordinance that broadly said it was illegal to sit behind the wheel while intoxicated. It’s similar to the language in the Warner Robins code.

The change the council is considering defines a person as intoxicated if he or she shows physical signs such as glossy eyes and dilated pupils, fails a field sobriety test, fails a Breathalyzer or refuses to submit to a test.

Walker, who said his uncle and law firm partner actually drafted the ordinance, said officers haven’t sent as many cases to city court because the judge felt the code was subjective.

“Now that this change has been made, that problem has been addressed and it will give our officers that option of charging them under the city code rather than whatever the state statute may be,” Walker said.

Lee Gilmour, the Perry city manager, said the difference between charges in Municipal and State courts is mostly the penalties attached. He did not know what the penalties are.

West side commercial development

City Council also approved the annexation and rezoning of 18.4 acres of land just off Interstate 75, near Perry Parkway. The owner of the land, Ed Beckham Jr., intends to package the land with 25 acres he already owns and market it to developers.

Lee said the city has long anticipated that the city’s commercial development, which is primarily on the east side of the interstate, will expand to the west side.

Development could happen over the next couple of years, said Mike Beecham, the Community Development director. And that could mean better finances for the city, he said.

“The more commercial developments you have, the more tax revenue you get from property taxes,” Beecham said.

Still, there aren’t any buyers yet for Beckham’s property.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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