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Copeland fighting unsettled DUI charge

The Aug. 21 runoff election between attorney Ronnie Mabra and Fulton County school teacher T.J. Copeland will decide the winner of the new Dist. 63 seat in the state House. But surfacing just days before the election is the report of a 2010 incident in Atlanta that remains unsettled, one where Copeland was charged with a DUI and other misdemeanor offenses. For his part, Copeland said he is fighting the charges that are being transferred from Atlanta Municpal Court to Fulton County State Court.

Attorney Lamar Willis on Friday said Copeland decided to fight the case, a move that requires a greater length of time than would have been needed if he had decided to plea out on the offenses from late 2010.

Documents from Fulton County State Court Solicitor General Carmen D. Smith dated May 29 note that on Nov. 14, 2010 Copeland was charged with DUI alcohol less safe, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, driving with a suspended or revoked license and driving with a revoked, canceled or suspended registration.

The incident from which the charges arose occurred at 2:26 a.m. at the intersection of Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive in Atlanta, according to police reports. The incident did not involve an accident, reports said. All the charges are misdemeanors.

The Ga. Dept. of Public Safety incident report noted that Copeland was stopped after driving the wrong way on Lindbergh Drive. The officer asked Copeland how much he had to drink after smelling a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. Copeland told the officer he had consumed one frozen alcoholic beverage, reports said.

The officer performed a standard field sobriety evaluation and attempted to perform a preliminary breath test but Copeland refused, according to reports. The officer then placed Copeland under arrest for DUI, reports said.

Willis said the case was initially bound for Atlanta municipal court but was moved to Fulton County State Court after Copeland decided to fight the charges. That move, to date, resulted in his client still not being informed of a court date, Willis said.

“To fight a case you believe you’re not guilty of takes a long time. In Fulton County (State Court) it takes even longer,” Willis said. “If you refuse a breath test you’ll be arrested whether you’re intoxicated or not. We could have taken the pleas but we’re fighting this because we believe he will be exonerated.”

Willis said Copeland’s drivers license has been re-instated and that once that occurs charges are typically dismissed.

Copeland and Mabra were the two top vote getters in the July 31 primary election, with Mabra securing approximately 48 percent of the vote and Copeland coming in second in the three-person race with approximately 28 percent of the vote.

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