Bogus Stoned Driving Arrests Highlight Dubious Methods of ‘Drug Recognition Experts’
A lawsuit by three sober drivers who were busted for DUI questions the pot-detecting abilities of DREs.
Jacob Sullum|Sep. 28, 2017 3:40 pm
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To the untrained eye, Katelyn Ebner seems completely sober during her 28-minute roadside encounter with Cobb County, Georgia, police officer Tracy Carroll, who has pulled the 23-year-old waitress over for ailing to maintain her lane as she made a left turn. But Carroll, who was designated a “drug recognition expert” (DRE) after undergoing 160 hours of special training, perceives “numerous indicators” that Ebner is under the influence of marijuana. Ebner repeatedly assures him she does not “smoke weed” or “do any of that stuff” and volunteers to prove it by taking a drug test. “You’re going to jail, ma’am,” he replies. “I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now.”
Carroll does not need a magical drug test, because he is a magical drug test—or so the Cobb County Police Department would have you believe. But the experiences of innocent motorists like Ebner, who were arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana based on Carroll’s hunch, only to be cleared by negative blood tests, suggest otherwise. This week three of them, including Ebner, filed a federal lawsuit that casts doubt on the drug-detecting abilities of DREs like Carroll.
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The lawsuit argues that Ebner and her two co-plaintiffs, Princess Mbamara and Ayokunle Oriyomi, both college students, felt they had no choice but to submit to drug tests, especially after Carroll told them that state law required them to do so and that their driver’s licenses would be suspended if they refused. Under the circumstances, the complaint says, the consent was not genuine, and since there was no warrant the blood tests violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. Ebner, Mbamara, and Oriyomi also argue that Carroll had no “justifiable basis” for subjecting them to sobriety tests and no probable cause to arrest them.
“Defendant Carroll’s pattern and practice of enforcing DUI-drug infractions,” the complaint says, “was to arrest an individual based on nothing more than a hunch, which would be invariably ratified by the results of an ad hoc smattering of tests he administered, which were divorced from any rigorous methodology and were without the foundational underpinning necessary to amount to legal justification to arrest….The way that Cobb County Police Officers such as Defendant Carroll are taught to and do administer their testing for the detection of impairment by drugs is designed to make innocent behavior appear incriminating and to make exculpatory behavior appear irrelevant.” The ACLU argues that the Cobb County Police Department licensed, endorsed, and encouraged such pseudoscientific methods, “allowing officers artificially knighted with ‘Drug Recognition Expert’ status to falsely believe that they have a special and unique ability to detect marijuana use.”
Even after blood tests confirmed that Ebner, Mbamara, and Oriyomi were telling the truth when they denied being under the influence of marijuana, the Cobb County Police Department defended Carroll’s methods. Amazingly, the complaint notes, his superiors “continued to state that even if Defendant Carroll had known of the negative results of Plaintiff Ebner’s blood test at the time she was arrested, nonetheless there would have been probable cause for her arrest.”
Who are you going to believe? Some fancy lab test or Officer Carroll’s gut?
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Yet another reason to end the “(pseudo) War on (some) Drugs” and restrain the police in their pursuit of “revenue”.
I’ll take their federal suit one step further. I’d restrain the police action to only case where there is property damage or personal injury. After all, where is the “victim” in touching or going over a line painted by a Gooferment bureaucrat?
When I pass on maybe I’ll finally understand, but as of now I just don’t see it.
Even when I see an idiot speeding down the road and cutting in and out — never a cop around then; to busy sleeping or collecting revenue like highwaymen of old — I never get upset because I ask myself “where’s the victim”. Now if the impolite jerk causes an accident, then they should throw the book at him. (It IS usually a “him” based on my unstatistical observations.)
When, if ever, will the Sheeple aka Clovers ever wake up?
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