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Georgia drivers could refuse to sign traffic tickets and not be arrested under bill

Feb 21, 2024, 10:34 AM

FILE - In this image take from police body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department, ...

FILE - In this image take from police body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department, Johnny Hollman Sr. speak with Officer Kiran Kimbrough on Aug. 10, 2023 in Atlanta. Georgia lawmakers are seeking to change state law to say that officers don't have to arrest people who refuse to sign traffic tickets after Hollman, a church deacon, died in August after initially refusing to sign a citation and struggling with an Atlanta police officer. (Atlanta Police Department via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Atlanta Police Department via AP, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers are seeking to change state law to say that officers don’t have to arrest people who refuse to sign traffic tickets after a church deacon died in August after initially refusing to sign a citation and struggling with an Atlanta police officer.

The state House voted 156-10 on Wednesday to pass House Bill 1054, which removes the requirement for a driver to sign a citation, allowing an officer to instead write that someone refused to sign and then give the driver the ticket. The measure moves to the Senate for more debate.

State Rep. Yasmin Neal, the Jonesboro Democrat who sponsored the bill, said removing the requirement to sign would reduce a source of conflict that leads to risks for officers and drivers. Officers could still choose to arrest traffic offenders, but they would not be required to do so.

“No more arguments, no more fights. no more instances of officers risking their lives in an attempt to arrest someone for lower-level traffic crimes,” said Neal, a former police officer. “Everyone goes home safe at the end of the night.”

Under the measure, people who refuse to sign citations would not be allowed to prepay the ticket and would be required to show up for court. A judge could suspend the driver’s license of people who skip court dates.

Neal said some cities and counties across the state already allow the practice, but she said she wanted to standardize it, saying jail should be reserved for people accused of more serious crimes.

“We do not want our officers on the side of the road, arguing and fighting with citizens over traffic tickets if a citizen does not agree,” Neal said.

Atlanta is one city that lets people refuse to sign citations, a change made only after the Aug. 10 arrest of Johnny Hollman Sr. Relatives say the 62-year-old Hollman was driving home from Bible study at his daughter’s house and taking dinner to his wife when he collided with another vehicle while turning across a busy street just west of downtown.

Body camera video shows Officer Kiran Kimbrough repeatedly demanded that Hollman sign the citation, but Hollman insisted he did nothing wrong. The two men then tusseled, with Holloman ending up on the ground. He repeatedly said “I can’t breathe,” and Kimbrough used a Taser to shock him. Hollman then became unresponsive, and he was later declared dead at a hospital. An autopsy determined Hollman’s death was a homicide, with heart disease also a contributing factor.

Lance LoRusso, an attorney for Kimbrough, has previously said Hollman resisted arrest and Kimbrough acted lawfully when he deployed his stun gun and used force.

Kimbrough was fired Oct. 10 after Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said he violated department policy by not waiting for a supervisor to arrive before arresting Hollman. The Fulton County district attorney’s office is reviewing the case to determine whether criminal charges are appropriate.

Hollman’s family has sued Kimbrough, Schierbaum and the city in federal court, arguing Kimbrough violated Hollman’s rights by using excessive force. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages and other compensation.

Hollman’s family has also sued a tow truck driver who assisted Kimbrough and has called on prosecutors to charge the officer with murder.

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Georgia drivers could refuse to sign traffic tickets and not be arrested under bill