GSP: Officer not given preferential treatment

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

PORTERDALE -- The decision to allow a Conyers Police officer charged with DUI to plead guilty to a lesser charge was not based on preferential treatment on the part of the arresting officer, according to Lt. Paul Cosper with the Georgia State Patrol.

Conyers Officer Justin Shane Lykins, 35, was arrested Jan. 22 about 1 a.m. after a Porterdale Police officer pulled him over on a window tint violation. The officer called in a Georgia State Patrol trooper to assist in the arrest. Lykins was ultimately allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of reckless driving in April in Porterdale Municipal Court.

Since that time questions have arisen over whether other offenders would be given the same consideration as Lykins. Due at least in part to the plea negotiation, four of Porterdale's five City Council members voted to advertise Requests for Qualifications for the city's Municipal Court judge and solicitor.

Cosper said Friday that Lykins did not receive preferential treatment in light of the circumstances of the case.

Cosper said the trooper was called to the scene after Lykins had been stopped by the Porterdale officer. He said Lykins had refused to take a field sobriety test or blow into the handheld alcohol sensor that is used as a field screening test.

Once taken to the Newton County Detention Center, Lykins did blow into the certified Breathalyzer, which showed that his blood alcohol content level was 0.105, Cosper said. The legal limit in Georgia is 0.08.

Cosper said since the trooper did not observe Lykins driving nor witness any field sobriety test, he had only the Breathalyzer results on which to base the DUI charge.

"The only proof that trooper had was that one test," Cosper said.

"Can you get convicted on one breath test?" he asked. "Yes, you can; and no, you can't."

Cosper said the trooper ultimately did his job.

"You try to convict them of something," he said. "Reckless driving is a serious charge. He didn't get preferential treatment. (The trooper) got him off the road and took him to jail."

The trooper agreed at a state Administrative Law hearing to the reduced charge of reckless driving based on Lykins' agreement to enter a guilty plea to reckless driving. He also approved a recommendation to Porterdale Municipal Court that the DUI be reduced to recklesss driving with the same sentence as the DUI would hold.

Nevertheless, Cosper said the final decision in the case was up to the solicitor and the judge. He added that troopers are instruments of the court and that few officers would object if a judge refused to accept a recommendation of a reduced charge.

"Ultimately, it falls on the court," he said.