Nurse arrested after refusing to sign ticket

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Gwinnett Medical Center nurse was arrested when she refused to sign a citation stating she drove on the wrong side of the road - an act she said she did not commit.

Fifty-one-year-old Karen Schmidt of Sugar Hill said she was leaving work at the Lawrenceville hospital and made a U-turn back into the medical center when she was pulled over by a Lawrenceville police officer.

"He handed me the ticket and it said driving on the wrong side of the road," Schmidt said. "I wasn't driving on the wrong side of the road, so I didn't want to sign for something I didn't do."

According to a police report, the emergency room nurse drove her vehicle into eastbound traffic on West Pike Street near traffic exiting Ga. Highway 316 and made a right turn onto Medical Center Boulevard.

Schmidt told police she was turning around to check on a stray dog she saw nearby, one she said she and other nurses often fed.

The nurse told police there was no sign prohibiting a U-turn, but Capt. Jeff Smith, a Lawrenceville police officer on duty the night of the arrest, said a U-turn was not what Schmidt made.

"I've reviewed the tape of the incident several times," Smith said. "What she did was not a U-turn. U-turns are permitted, but not in that way, not when driving on the wrong side of the road."

Schmidt said the officer never explained the reason for the ticket stating she drove on the wrong side of the road or the consequences for not signing the citation.

"I asked what I did wrong," said Schmidt. "He never said a word. He wrote the ticket and told me to sign it."

According to a police report, the officer explained the reason for the ticket and was interrupted by the woman's refusal to sign.

"It's my understanding she was told multiple times of the consequences," said Randy Johnson, chief of police for the Lawrenceville Police Department.

In accordance with Georgia law, after a reported multiple refusals, the officer arrested Schmidt.

According to Georgia law, code 40-13-2.1, officers must advise the person receiving the ticket of the reason for the citation, and that it is not an admission of guilt, and failure to sign will result in arrest.

Police said the situation is regrettable and believe the arrest could have been avoided if Schmidt had signed.

"When you sign a ticket you're acknowledging you'll show up in court where you'll plead guilty or not guilty," said Johnson. "Your time to argue your case is in court, not on the side of the road."

Schmidt made bond a few hours after the arrest and will appear in court sometime in the upcoming month.

Arresting officer S. Gaines with the Lawrenceville Police Department was out of the office for the week and was unable to comment on the incident.