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Official Opinion 97-4

Official Opinion 97-4

January 27, 1997
To: 

Commissioner
Georgia Department of Public Safety

Re: 

The State Patrol cannot be prevented from carrying out its duties on public roads and highways.

You have asked for an opinion regarding the authority of the Georgia State Patrol to investigate accidents which occur within local jurisdictions. The duties and jurisdiction of the Georgia State Patrol are outlined in O.C.G.A. § 35-2-32. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 35-2-32 provides:

(a) The Uniform Division of the department shall have jurisdiction throughout this state with such duties and powers as are prescribed by law.

(b) It shall be the primary duty of the Uniform Division to patrol the public roads and highways of this state, including interstate and state maintained highways, and to safeguard the lives and property of the public; and such duty shall also include accident investigation and traffic enforcement. The Uniform Division shall prevent, detect, and investigate violations of the criminal laws of this state, any other state, or the United States which are committed upon these

public roads and highways or upon property appertaining thereto and shall apprehend and arrest those persons who violate such criminal laws.

The statutorily mandated jurisdiction and duties are clear. The primary duty of the State Patrol is to patrol public roads and highways, O.C.G.A. § 35-2-32(b), and the State Patrol has statewide jurisdiction to carry out this primary duty, O.C.G.A. § 35-2-32(a). This primary duty specifically includes investigating accidents and traffic enforcement. Thus, it is my opinion that a local law enforcement agency may not prevent the State Patrol from investigating traffic accidents on public roads and highways within the jurisdiction of the local agency.

Prepared by:

CAROL A. CALLAWAY
Senior Assistant Attorney General