What is a BOLO Police Term? – by Columbus Ga Lawyer Mark Jones
What the heck is a bolo police term? That is the legal question that spawned this blog. In the legal context, a BOLO has nothing to do with the tie the gentleman pictured below is wearing. No, a bolo is a term of art in police work. It means, “be on the lookout,” and is a common acronym for police officers patrolling the streets who are looking for a criminal suspect.
The seminal case in Georgia on BOLOs is Vansant v. State, 264 Ga. 319, 443 S.E.2d 474 (1994)
In Vansant, a gentleman named John Vansant was arrested for DUI after a concerned citizen called police and reported that Mr. Vansant had gotten into his white truck, backed into a vehicle in a parking lot and driven away. A “be on the lookout” or BOLO was put out for a white van. A police officer spotted a white van, pulled it over, and found an allegedly intoxicated Mr. Vansant behind the wheel. All the police officer knew was that he was looking for a white van. He saw one driving about one mile from where the hit and run incident was reported. The officer did not know or recognize Mr. Vansasnt prior to the stop.
The trial court granted the defense attorney’s motion to suppress all evidence obtained subsequent to the traffic stop, arguing that there was no particularized basis to stop him. The Supreme Court of Georgia held that the trial court was correct to suppress the evidence, noting that the officer had no particularized basis (also known as reasonable articulable suspicion) to stop Mr. Vansant’s truck. Simply seeing a white van driving at 1:15 am in the morning about a mile from where a hit and run was reported is not enough to initiate a traffic stop.
The Georgia Supremes went way back and cited the beautiful language from Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)
“No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.”
Vansant is the central case on motions to suppress in Georgia. It set forth the legal standards for trial courts when ruling on them as follows:
- A trial court’s findings of fact on disputed issues of fact will not be disturbed unless clearly erroneous (aka the “any evidence” standard of review)
- A trial court’s application of the law to its findings of fact receive a de novo review
So, if you have a DUI or other criminal charge, you are going to want to make sure your lawyer files a motion to suppress and make sure he cites Vansant! It’s the leading case on motions to suppress!