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Unofficial Opinion 96-17

Unofficial Opinion 96-17

September 30, 1996
To: 

County Attorney
Lowndes County

Re: 

The Lowndes County Sheriff's Department is authorized to enforce Lowndes County ordinances 94-0493-A and 94-0493-B, which prohibit trucks over ten wheels from using residential roads except when making temporary deliveries.

You have requested the unofficial opinion of the Attorney General with respect to whether the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department is authorized to enforce Lowndes County ordinances 94-0493-A and 94-0493-B. These ordinances have resulted in the erection of traffic-control devices prohibiting trucks over ten wheels from using residential roads within Lowndes County, except when making temporary deliveries. {1}

With respect to a county's road system, O.C.G.A. §§ 32-4-42(6) and 32-4-42(10) state that the powers of a county include the establishment of reasonable regulations for the installation of traffic and other signals and the adoption and enforcement of ordinances necessary to the efficient operation of the road system. In addition, O.C.G.A. § 36-1-20(a) provides that the governing authority of each county may adopt ordinances, including traffic regulations, for the unincorporated parts of a county. A violation of such a county ordinance is punishable by fine or imprisonment, and jurisdiction is in the court or

courts having jurisdiction over state traffic offenses. O.C.G.A. § 36-1-20(a), (c).

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-6-20(a) provides that the driver of any vehicle must obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device, and O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20(e) provides that the disregard or disobedience of the instructions of any official traffic-control device is prima facie evidence of a violation of the law. Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-1-1(37) defines an official traffic-control device as "all signs . . . which are placed or erected by authority of a public body or official having jurisdiction for the purpose of regulating, warning, or guiding traffic."

Because Lowndes County is a public body having jurisdiction for the purpose of regulating traffic, the traffic-control devices erected in furtherance of ordinances 94-0493-A and 94-0493-B are official traffic-control devices under O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(37). Therefore, a violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20(a) occurs when a driver fails to obey a Lowndes County traffic-control device erected according to ordinances 94-0493-A and 94-0493-B.

Regarding the enforcement of the Lowndes County ordinances, a sheriff is required by O.C.G.A. § 15-16-10(a)(8) to perform such duties "as are or may be imposed by law or which necessarily appertain to his or her office." This provision has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Georgia to include all common law duties and powers of sheriffs, including the right and duty to enforce laws enacted for the protection of the lives, persons, property, health, and morals of the people. Elder v. Camp, 193 Ga. 320, 322 (1942).

Moreover, O.C.G.A. § 40-13-30 states that any county officer with the authority to make misdemeanor criminal arrests shall also have the authority to bring charges for the prosecution of traffic offenses. From the foregoing, it is my conclusion that the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department is authorized to enforce Lowndes County ordinances 94-0493-A and 94-0493-B, which prohibit trucks over ten wheels from using residential roads except when making temporary deliveries.

Prepared by:

KYLE A. PEARSON
Assistant Attorney General


{1}Of course, the County ordinances do not apply to state highways running through residential areas. State law necessarily preempts local ordinances in regard to the regulation of state roads. See O.C.G.A. § 32-6-20 et seq.