The Michael Cross DUI

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week then you know this news. Alpharetta councilman Michael Cross was arrested over the weekend for DUI. You can read about it here, here and here. There’s no need to go over the facts of the case. They’ve been more than covered.

This blog has been silent on the issue until now. There are a few facets that are still worth talking about. There are also some interesting comparisons and contrasts to be made.

The Paul Oakes Wacky World Incident - There were allegations that Mr. Oakes received preferential treatment from the police during this incident a year and a half ago. Oakes served on the board of the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation.

Like Oakes, Michael Cross also serves this charity that supports local police and firefighters. But you would have a tough time arguing that Cross received any preferential treatment Saturday night given the seriousness of the charges brought against him.

I expect Cross, a lawyer by trade, to vigorously defend himself. There’s no breathalyzer evidence against him. Without that physical data, he’s likely going to challenge the report and testimony of the arresting officer. This is awkward considering his years of support of Alpharetta’s Public Safety department.

But kudos are owed to the Alpharetta Police for how they’ve handled the case up to this point. Very professional.

DUI Debbie - Cross isn’t the first member of Alpharetta’s Council to be arrested for DUI. Debbie Gibson faced similar charges. During her re-election campaign in 2007 she was the target of a vicious online campaign. The DUIDebbie.com website was mean spirited and downright cruel.

Will Michael Cross get the “DUI Debbie treatment”? If you had asked me Monday I would have said no. But several comments online this week have suggested that this is coming. It’s disappointing.

Should a Councilman resign after DUI charges like this? We can have that discussion. But there is no reason to drag this process into the gutter. My personal opinion is that he can serve while facing the charges. But my opinion might change depending on how he handles himself during this time. Were he to be convicted he should resign immediately.

One personal note… I’ve met Michael Cross a few times. From this time together I’ve found him to be a personable and likeable fella, not unlike most in Alpharetta. I believe him to be a good family man. Before Saturday’s events I had no reason to ever think he would put his family or the public in danger.

That’s all for now. I welcome your respectful and civil discussion on this topic.

26 Responses to “The Michael Cross DUI”

  1. Disappointed Citizen February 28, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    He should resign immediately because he is making Alpharetta look bad by staying.

    While he has every right to fight this if he thinks he was wronged, he should do it outside the public eye by first stepping down. People in public office are held to a higher standard — as it should be — because they are representing other people.

    For arguments sake, let’s assume Mr. Cross is innocent. There will still always be shades of doubt no matter the outcome. Is being a councilman really worth dragging down our town’s reputation? Sometimes one has to look at the bigger picture. Sometimes one has to make a choice between being right vs. being effective.

    The optics look very bad. By maintaining his innocence, he is accusing a citizen in another town of randomly calling 911 and lying about what he saw. He is also accusing an officer of lying about everything in the police report (erratic driving and the smell of alcohol on his breath). What are the odds of that? What would be the motive? He even admitted to the policeman that he’d had beer earlier that evening.

    Mr. Cross should take his lumps for the benefit of Alpharetta’s citizens instead of making a spectacle of himself and our town. There is a trust issue at stake. If it is perceived that he is lying about this, what else might he lie about? There is already a crisis in trust of elected officials.

    His son knows the truth and is watching his father. Is he being taught that the ends justify the means? That one should lie to all ends for self-preservation? Or to humbly admit mistakes and esteem others (citizens) higher than oneself? The seeds sown in his children will be harvested in due time.

    “A man cannot govern a nation if he cannot govern a city; he cannot govern a city if he cannot govern a family; he cannot govern a family unless he can govern himself; and he cannot govern himself unless his passions are subject to reason.” ~Hugo Grotius 1583-1645

  2. Julie Hogg February 28, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    Lee – you’re such a good guy for soliciting a civil argument. Discussions are good – when civil. I disagree with the writer above. At this point anyway. If the accused – Mr. Cross – maintains that he is innocent of the drunk driving charges – which at this point I believe he does – then of course, he should NOT resign from Council immediately. If that should change, then like you, I might have to reconsider my opinion.
    Mr. Cross had the right to refuse the on site tests that the police officer requested. Rights have consequences – but he still had the right and he chose to refuse the tests.
    As I said on another website earlier tonight – we were not in the vehicle with Mr. Cross. Did he drop his phone? Was there some problem with the child? Was he otherwise not paying attention to the road as he should have been? We’ve all been distracted for goodness sakes.
    Mr. Cross has NOT been convicted of DUI. He has been charged with DUI which is entirely different.
    And personally, I am a little weirded out by the driver that called him in. I don’t want to believe we’re in that much of a “big brother” state.
    Well, we’re find out soon enough what will happen to Michael Cross.

  3. JP February 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    I believe in this country the law states “innocent until proven guilty”. As someone who believes our local police have far exceeded their authority, I am going to give Mr. Cross the benefit of the doubt. If he is proven guilty, then he can suffer the consequences.

    I am tired of worrying about being pulled over every day and night driving around Alpharetta and Johns Creek for the most ridiculous of reasons. So many of my neighbors and their children feel a level of harassment from the local police for the most minor of traffic scofflaws.

    Sometimes I feel like I live in a police state. I’m over it.

  4. Eric March 1, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    JP, well stated. When I lived in Florida, in particular Orange County, it was as if the Sheriff’s Department went around driving the streets looking to create trouble and thus either issuing a citation or greater. I had an incident a decade ago in an extremely high income area (e.g. where your top entertainers and athletes live) and I was driving 32 MPH in a 25 MPH zone. The officer waited several minutes, then came, pulled me over, and questioned me as to what I was doing (on a public street) driving there and that I was driving over the speed limit.

    I then informed him that the posted speed limit sign that he was referencing was covered by tree growth, which he then acknowledged, but still ticketed me because I was still exceeding speed limit. Additionally, he asked me what the last speed limit sign I saw said, and I told him 40 MPH, which he also acknowledged. So, I ended up driving slower than the last visible sign in a dark area, yet he still did that. Ugh.

    The point of my story is that I’ve heard and seen so much of the same type of incidents around this area as well. It’s often hard to understand the talking points of needing more and more police officers when it seems that many are doing more harassing than helping.

    I think that no matter the political stripe, many of us can agree to the notion of the police state gone way too far.

  5. JP March 1, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    @Eric,

    Here’s a few for you: My son (22 years old) was walking home from his friend’s house in Johns Creek a few weeks ago. An officer was driving by and pulled over and stopped him. He wanted to know who he was and why he was walking through the neighborhood that evening. It was like a scene out of Sylvester Stallone’s “First Blood” movie.

    Last summer I was driving to work (morning rush hour)and was in line of cars pulling out (taking a left) onto Alpharetta Highway.
    Each car had to stop and look for an opening to merge into the traffic flow. I was about the 5th car in line.

    When it was my turn to go, I had about 4 or 5 false starts before I was able to find an opening and pull into traffic. As soon as I did, a cop came out of nowhere and pulled me over. Of course, he wouldn’t tell me what I did wrong till he wrote the ticket.

    Here’s the kicker – it was for “not coming to a complete stop at the stop sign” – the same stop sign I had spent close to 5 minutes sitting in a line to merge into traffic!

    Of course, I fought it and went to court. However, when I went in front of the judge, the cop lied saying I never stopped at the stop sign and the judge immediately ruled against me. $209 fine for doing nothing wrong. Just a typical day in ___________ city in North Fulton. The money grab continues unabated.

  6. Greg March 1, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    I also agree with the Innocent Until Proven Guilty idea. I believe it’s a law.

    But I have to comment on your post, Julie. If someone is weaving around the road, I sure as heck want someone to call that in, and I want the police to pull that person over before they weave into my lane (or the lane of one of my family members, or the lane of anyone else) and kill someone. I don’t care if they’re weaving because they’re drunk, because they decided that picking the cellphone up off the floor is more important than being a safe driver, or any other reason!

  7. Lee March 1, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Here’s an interesting academic discussion… go out and google for information on Charles Bannister over in Gwinnett County. He was a commissioner who was arrested on DUI charges. Someone saw him drinking in a restaurant and called the cops. He was pulled over after driving crazy. Field test showed him to be drunk but he blew a clean breathalyser. He was later cleared of the charges and then sued Gwinnett County over it. There were charges that his arrest was politically motivated.

    Cross’ arrest certainly was not politically motivated. And I believe there was probable cause for the arrest. But I mention Charles Bannister because I think cases like this can arise from political disputes. With the help of potentially unscrupulous police, it would be easy to trump up some charges like this. And if all politicians should resign after an arrest, then you could potentially oust your political opponents in this manner.

    Again, I don’t think this is the case with Cross. I throw it out there for discussion purposes only. Should all politicians resign if/when they have been arrested? Would this encourage the criminalization of politics?

  8. JAH March 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Let’s not overlook the situation with his child. Regardless of how Cross approaches his charge of DUI, the facts regarding his child in the vehicle and not being properly buckled in seem to be clear and perhaps less prone to interpretation (although as an attorney, I’m sure he and his representation will do their best).

    What is the punishment for the charges related to his child? I believe the charge was something like ‘child endangerment’ and ‘failure to properly seat a child’ or something along those lines. Could it be that his undoing won’t be the DUI charge, but these charges instead?

  9. Greg March 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    That’s interesting, Lee, but the difference is that Bannister agreed to be tested. It is a bit odd that Michael Cross wouldn’t agree to a test. If you know you’re innocent, wouldn’t that be an easy, quick way to prove it and end the whole ordeal?

  10. Julie Hogg March 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    All good points above and an interesting discussion. I am only persuaded to add that there are two sides to EVERY story. I’m only weighing in on this because I don’t feel that he or anyone deserves to be maligned when we don’t know the facts. As for the weaving – perhaps he was distracted by some weirdo following him too close ( the person who called him in) and was trying to get this person to stop following him.

  11. Sandy March 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I hardly think it’s productive to malign a concerned citizen who observed a child bouncing around unbuckled in a vehicle being driving recklessly by calling him a “weirdo”. There have been other instances of concerned citizens in Alpharetta reporting reckless drivers with children in their vehicles who have been subsequently been convicted of DUI. Those concerned citizens may well have saved not only the lives of the drunk and their children, but everybody else on the road is endangered by a drunk driver.

  12. Mike March 1, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    I don’t know much about Michael Cross, but from what I have read about his history is that he’s a hard worker and a politician that stays underneath the radar (a good thing).

    A DUI is a terrible thing, especially when a child is in the car.

    But, like many above, I think its fair to let the case unfold and see what happens. The idea that someone followed him for that long and then revealed himself on local news video a few days later is a bit odd. But, unfortunately, some people love the attention. Personally, if I called him in for possible DUI I wouldn’t be exposing myself to the press. I prefer to be a private citizen, but its his prerogative.

    As it comes to how Mr.Cross handled the stop, I agree with him fully. I know some above and others will say that if you’re not guilty, you shouldn’t worry about taking the tests. I’m sure those people have never been pulled over and did voluntary tests. My question is this, its 35 degrees outside, you’re on asphalt that has all kinds of debris collected on it, uneven surface for purposes of rainfall runoff, and a stranger with a badge and gun who is trying to intimidate you to take tests. Why would any sane individual take that test? In Georgia, its pretty much standard procedure that the policed take you in if you smell like alcohol and refuse voluntary testing. So why submit? If Mr. Cross took the tests and he registered over the limit, than the dynamics change and most people would be calling for his head. From what I have seen on the news clips he has handled the situation professionally so far, and I trust the police have as well.

    I hope this does not turn into a DUI Debbie. But, from seeing how she handled it on the news and then trying to overdose because of embarrassment opened the door for the attack. I know she lost re-election, solely because of that, but does anyone know if it was the same year or the year right after? I know it was fairly recent after her arrest. According to the city website, Cross has three more years to go before re-election. If the case is handled promptly and Mr.Cross is found non-guilty, gets a dismissal, or lesser plea, I doubt it would effect his chances next go around.

  13. Julie Hogg March 2, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    @ Mike above..I appreciate your perspective. @Sandy above: you are correct. As I would not like to see Mr. Cross maligned, so should I not malign the call in guy by calling him names like “weirdo”. That being said, I’m simply trying to make the point that there are other ways to see that scenario and the person who called him in. It is very strange to me, very strange indeed, that the majority of comments I read on a local news website assume that everyone in this situation is right EXCEPT Mr. Cross. This is a logical fallacy but mainly it’s human nature – because Mr. Cross was charged with DUI we assume the police officer and the concerned citizen were entirely right AND because Mr. Cross is Mr. Cross – a local city councilman – he’s automatically reviled. Or, maybe its just sensationalistic journalism. We all know that sells. Yes, I have written a few blogs myself with City Council members as the main subject (they are, after all, great fodder) nevertheless, they are regular people like you and me. In this particular unfortunate circumstance, Mr. Cross deserves a fair shake as any of us would in that same situation. I appreciate all the fine and thoughtful and non-mean spirited comments thus far on this blog.

  14. JAH March 2, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    “So why submit”?

    Here’s why: I didn’t know this until I looked up “Georgia Implied Consent Law”, but it’s worth sharing for all of us to know.

    From one attorney website: “driving is a privilege, not a right. This is especially important when it comes to Georgia‚Äôs Implied Consent Law. Under this law, you as a Georgia licensed driver are consenting to submit to a chemical test if you are stopped for driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. If you refuse, you can face harsh consequences including losing the right to drive.”

    Also: “For some drivers who refuse to take a blood, breath or urine test, their goal is to make it more difficult for the State to prove they have been driving under the influence of a substance. However, the State views refusal as an admission of guilt and imposes penalties.”

    And: “There are also other ways that police can try to test your sobriety. For example, if they observed erratic driving behavior, smelled alcohol on your breath or noticed strange behavior they may suspect you of drinking and driving.”

    Finally: “This is a serious criminal offense and the State makes a point to punish anyone who has not cooperated with Implied Consent.”

    So, as an attorny, I would expect Cross to be aware of Implied Consent, and presumably he would know the consequences of refusing all the sobriety tests, chemical and field. He chose a certain course of action by design, now we have to see how well his representation handles this.

  15. Disappointed Citizen March 2, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    It is unfair to demonize the man who called 9-1-1 just because he granted an interview to the press. He did absolutely nothing wrong but may have saved someone’s life. Doesn’t anyone else hear the ads “If you see something, say something?” That is what he did and he should be lauded. In the future, I will call rather than merely trying to get out of a drunk’s way.

    The sobriety test is a standard neurological test that one receives at a routine physical. It is a difficult test especially as we age. Under 40? Shouldn’t be a problem but I can cut some slack on that. The breathalyzer is another story. There is absolutely no reason to refuse that test unless you think you have the possibility of failing. That fact alone casts suspicion over him and his story, especially since he admitted to drinking earlier that night.

    Legal standing does not equate to ethical or moral standing.

  16. Greg March 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Mike, I agree that he’s innocent until found guilty. BUT, I think your assertion that “Why would any sane individual take that test?” is patently insane. Michael Cross is a lawyer and a politician. He knew perfectly well that this event would show up in the papers. Telling himself that he absolutely was not drunk, he could chose for the headline to be, “Alpharetta Councilman Pulled Over for Wreckless Driving” (with the details saying he passed a test was not drunk) or “Alpharetta Councilman Arrested and Charged with DUI” (with the details saying he refused THREE tests).

    Which sounds better (or at least less bad)? Which would a sane person choose?

  17. Julie Hogg March 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    @Disappointed Citizen, The “If you see something, say something” slogan was put out by the Department of Homeland Security and pertains to domestic terrorism. So, just for the record, you are taking that out of context. I get part of what you are saying but there is a sense in which what you are saying is a scary thought in and of itself. It is part and parcel of a “big brother is watching you” world that I cannot feel good about.

  18. Disappointed Citizen March 2, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Mike said, “According to the city website, Cross has three more years to go before re-election. If the case is handled promptly and Mr.Cross is found non-guilty, gets a dismissal, or lesser plea, I doubt it would effect his chances next go around.”

    Perhaps. I can’t wait to see which businesses will proudly display his campaign signs in their window next time, if so. Not smart proprietors. Maybe the Growler store? We make shopping choices based on the people businesses support.

  19. Greg March 2, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Julie, if you’re weaving around the road, you’re breaking the law. You’ve lost your right to privacy. Yes, big brother is watching you, and you’re going to get pulled over.

  20. Abe Simpson March 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Guilty until proven innocent, I guess. We are so quick to judge, but every day there are cases where cops break the rules too. They get DUIs, run thru lights, text while driving, beat their spouses, run drugs, hold grudges, etc. Just like “regular folks.” Didn’t ATL have 10 cops arrested just last week? It is no secret many departments have contests and incentives to write more tickets. Just ask people getting tickets for doing 47mph on North Point Parkway. Citations balance the budget.

    There is no justification for DUI, but I believe it is S.O.P. by DUI lawyers to recommend declining the test, so it is no surprise.

    Frankly, a first offense DUI should not be a fireable or resignation-worthy offense. DUI is bad, but it isn’t dealing drugs or murdering orphans. Pay a fine, attend some classes, pick up some garbage, life goes on. Second DUI, then you have a problem.

  21. Mike March 4, 2013 at 3:00 am #

    @Greg

    Like I said above, if they smell any alcohol whatsoever, you’re most likely going to jail, regardless if you submit to voluntary testing. That’s the way these things happen.

    Like I said above, all those conditions to do a voluntary test is hard enough for anyone to pass. In addition to the factors I mentioned above, also throw in that it was night and the possibility of low visibility due to lack of street lighting.

    Only he knows what he was doing and how much he exactly had that night, no one will ever know. Not using Mr. Cross as an example, but if you know you’ve had to much and take the risk of driving, you roll the dice.

    If you get pulled over you can politely refuse all voluntary tests, get arrested, go through the hassle of getting a temporary license and going to suspension hearings, and then go to court.

    Or, you can get pulled over, admit to the officer you have been drinking, take all of his tests, get arrested, then go to court.

    I’d take the first option. It may have not been the most ‘politically correct’ option that was taken, but if he took the tests, made himself seem ‘obvious’ on the tests, and registered over .08 or above, he would be toast. Right now from the tone and debate, which has been very constructive, the overall attitude is that we should wait to see the facts and let this case unfold, I agree. If he had taken the test showing he was above .08, I’m sure the tone would be quite different.

    I’m just trying to play the devil’s advocate here and trying to add a different perspective on the topic. Like I said in the beginning, a DUI is a terrible thing. We know what can happen. These cases take so now a days, so it could be a while before we get any more news.

  22. "Big Brother World" March 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    @Julie – I don’t like a “Big Brother World” either; however, if I almost drive the wrong way down 400, PLEASE call the cops on me before I hurt someone – no matter what the reason I I’m not able to drive properly is.

  23. Bill Teller March 16, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I have to agree. If I see a driver weaving on the road and driving the wrong way down an exit ramp, I must call 911 and report it. It is only worse if a child is in the car. All citizens are innocent until proven guilty, but the evidence in this case is pretty serious. Not taking a breath test is probably not going to matter. DUI convictions are secured all the time without breath test results. The circumstantial evidence in this case could well be enough to get a conviction. The question is will people who defend him now call for his resignation if that happens?

  24. David Messer January 24, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Mr. Cross was found not guilty of all charges. The judge read the prosecutor the riot act.

    Well now, let’s not all apologize at once.

  25. David Messer January 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    Oh, and the “concerned citizen”testified that he saw “a green SUV” driving erratically.

    Mr. Cross’s SUV is clearly seen in the video to be light blue.

  26. Mike T January 31, 2014 at 2:45 am #

    It always seems in these situations that these stories die a silent death. Since I see one person has posted on an old issue, I feel the same obligation. As I suspected, Mr. Cross’s case was thrown out. It would be great if this story could be brought back to the front of the site for final thoughts on the issue.

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