By on July 5, 2017

squad car police

It’s estimated that roughly 28 people are killed every day as a result of drivers intoxicated on alcohol. In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-related incidents, accounting for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities within the United States. However, the Department of Transportation shows the number of deaths associated with drunk driving trending downward since 2007. Likewise, the number of annual self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes recorded by the CDC have diminished to record lows in that same timeframe — and so have arrests.

Law enforcement likely played an important role. Police departments take drunk driving seriously and decades of aggressive actions have made the risks involved less than appetizing to even those whose judgement is clouded by booze. But as alcohol-related arrests have plummeted, drug-related arrests have gone up.

While much of this can be attributed to drunk drivers who decided to double-down with marijuana, drugs are estimated to be a factor in 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes where alcohol isn’t present. This has resulted in some police departments implementing special task forces designated to identify and arrest “drugged drivers.” But there is a problem — officers in Georgia have been arresting innocent people. 

While nobody wants impaired drivers on the road, potentially endangering lives, jailing someone who hasn’t committed a crime isn’t exactly categorizable as an acceptable casualty.

According to a report from 11Alive News in Atlanta, Georgia has 250 officers who are “qualified” as drug recognition experts (DREs). However, after watching them assess an individual, the process seems to involve little more than chatting them up, looking into their eyes, then having them look at various lights for ten minutes (in addition to standard DUI testing procedures).

Cobb County Police Officer T.T. Carroll is one such drug identification expert, and has arrested at least three individuals erroneously for driving under the influence of marijuana. In every videotaped instance, the suspect engages in a minor roadway infraction, usually crossing the center line, before being pulled over and tested. The dashcam footage contained in the report doesn’t highlight any obvious markings of intoxication and the conversation is as lucid as it is civil, but Carroll nonetheless arrests them for driving under the influence of drugs.

“I didn’t realize that you could get arrested for something that you didn’t do,” Katelyn Ebner, one of the people arrested by Carroll, told 11Alive in an interview. “That never crossed my mind until it happened to me.”

Ebner was arrested under suspicion of having smoked marijuana, spent the night in jail, and had her alcohol server’s permit revoked as a result. All of her blood work eventually came back completely clean. Ebner said she assumed she would be going home after she passed the breathalyzer test and answered Carroll’s questions. When he placed the handcuffs on her she inquired about a test for marijuana intoxication.

“You’re going to jail, ma’am. Okay? I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now,” the officer responds in the video.

Katelyn Ebner filed an Internal Affairs complaint against Carroll but investigators exonerated the officer, claiming the drug could have already metabolized out of her blood. However, a urine test that should have shown some signs of drug use also tested negative and Ebner passed along the results. “They said, ‘Yeah, we see this happen all the time. Um, the test results come back wrong all the time,'” she said.

This year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving awarded Cobb County’s DUI Task Force a trophy, with Officer Carroll gaining a Silver Medal for his 90 DUI arrests during 2016.

“He’s getting an award for just arrests,” Georgia resident Princess Mbamara complained. “Not even convictions. Arrests.”

Mbamara was another suspected DUI arrested by Carroll who later turned out to be clean. “And I’m one of these arrests,” Mbamara continued. “So this guy is just stacking up on awards and trophies. On ruining people’s lives.”

“He’s getting praised for arresting innocent people,” Katelyn Ebner said. “I’m not saying all those people he arrested were innocent, but at least three of them were, and no one is doing anything about it.”

Ebner and Mbamara both spent thousands of dollars trying to prove her innocence over the course of several months.

Officer Carroll subsequently received a promotion and a merit-based raise after his 2016 employment evaluation. It noted his exceptionally high number of DUI arrests ending in convictions or pleas and commended his record for making the correct decision on dealing with potentially impaired drivers.

Therein lies the problem. Many people, including Mbamara, are encouraged by legal council to take a plea deal rather than fight a case that’s difficult to prove. Neither of the women, nor the third unnamed Auburn University student arrested by Carroll, tested positive for illicit drug use and appeared to have performed their field sobriety tests adequately. But they were still arrested and forced into the courts to prove their innocence when it never should have been up for debate.

While it’s unlikely any officer is going to have a perfect arrest record, making arrests based on what seems to amount to a gut feeling is irresponsible. Nobody wants impaired drivers rampaging on the freeway, but nobody wants to be placed at risk of being jailed for committing zero crimes, either. Officer Carroll is state-certified drug recognition expert, one of 250 in Georgiawho have undergone a month-long training course. He has also been praised for being among the best his state has to offer.

Examining an older edition of the NHTSA’s “Drug Recognition Expert” student handbook, it’s easy to see how easily someone could be wrongfully accused of intoxication. While the testing procedure is extensive and science-based, there remains a lot of room for error. Several of the testing procedures reference non-specific variances that could result in someone being undeservedly ushered into the back of a squad car.

In one portion of the manual, dealing specifically with the smooth eye tracking used to evaluate the presence of alcohol and other drugs, the manner in which to administer the test is clearly outlined in excruciating detail. While the testing procedure itself is measured in precise inches and degrees, the measurements on how to assess the subject’s response are comparatively vague. The handbook also states, “It is important to always keep in mind that this formula expresses an average, approximate statistical relationship, not a precise mathematical relationship. Humans, and their eyes, do not all react to alcohol or other drugs in exactly the same way. The formula may be reasonably accurate for some people but much less accurate for others.”

Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the metrics used to assess non-alcoholic intoxication in Georgia (and other states already using DREs) before this mess catches on in other parts of the country. We don’t need any more civilians, or officers, taking heat for what seems to be an avoidable problem.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

43 Comments on “Georgia Police Occasionally Placing Innocent People in Jail for ‘Drugged Driving’...”

  • avatar

    Sheriff Buford T. Justice LIVES!

    “Boy, I’m gonna bar-b-q your a$$ in molasses!”

  • avatar

    This is why folks hate the police. Some moron takes a 30 day course, which if course no one fails, and suddenly they’re experts, unlike a real professional like a doctor who needs about 10 years of real training. This is a police state folks. Vote not guilty and show the police they’re not above the law. Also, sue, sue, and sue these so-called self appointed heroes.

    • 0 avatar

      They are certainly not to be trusted.

    • 0 avatar

      “Experts” only exist in the fantasies of well indoctrinated progressive drones. 30 days or 10 years, or 100 millennia, is utterly irrelevant.

      Throwing people in jail without first convening a Grand Jury of the accused’s peers, at the sole cost and inconvenience of the state; is the exclusive domain of police states. Regardless of whatever arbitrary “credential” the thug posing as an “expert” claims to posses.

      And if dragging 23 random people out of bed at night to obtain an arrest warrant isn’t deemed worthy of the cost and trouble: Then neither is the supposed “crime” the defendant is accused of, grave enough for a non police state to harass potentially innocent people over.

  • avatar

    It’s a matter of economics. When expected revenue falls from projected values to levels possibly below those of the previous year, creative “revenue enhancement” procedures must be developed and put into place for the revenue generators to continue producing income for the local community. I see the Atlanta Police as being on the cutting edge of creative thinking in changing times. The “rice bowls” of local government and the various agencies that depend upon this revenue must be maintained full.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps, but consider this: if the cops jail someone overnight and that person passes a drug test the next day, that person won’t pay a dime in fines. But there will be a cost associated with jailing that driver.

      To me, this kind of story illustrates that there’s no good roadside testing method for drug use.

  • avatar

    Posted is a 3% false arrest rate for Carroll and done with impunity. Interesting how only women are targeted. Is this guy trying to get a date? Since when is crossing the centerline grounds for arrest when all the field tests are passed, and why is the DA prosecuting unless they’re in cahoots with abuse of color of authority?

  • avatar

    A field test isn’t 100%?

    The same is true for alcohol. In most states, field tests, including PBTs, are only used for probable cause. Probable Cause is used for the arrest, where an admissible test (urine, blood, and some breath machines) is conducted.

    Over time, field tests for alcohol have improved. In their early days, they weren’t any better.

  • avatar

    I live in Cobb County. The Cobb County Police Dept is generally held in high regard.

    However, this MUST end. Guilty until proven not is not right. This is the USA.

    PS- Some departments are hard up for recruits. Many fail background. Pay is crap. Lots of officers are one step above scumbags.

  • avatar

    I have lived in Atlanta since 1985, having moved from Indiana (best move I ever made). I understand something about dynamics of this town that many outsiders don’t get. Atlanta is not just a large metro area with bad traffic. Sure it has suburbs and can be considered a mini LA in some regards.

    The difference is Atlanta is a magnet for other southern (and even many from the north) young kids to come to. So many young college grads come here for jobs. A thriving music (hip hop capital) and movie industry(Baby driver and Avengers and so many movies and studios based here). They drive like mad men on the wide highways and go in and out of traffic. I give credit to all the cops for doing what they do every day in very tough circumstances.

    • 0 avatar

      This is generally the same situation as Nashville metro. I’ve often considered the entire Davidson County area as “redneck Hollywood”. Young people flock to the area hoping to make it big in the music industry and end up playing a guitar on a street corner for spare change. Mix that in with wealthy retirees in the suburbs who come to TN for no state income tax and downtown yuppies, medical professionals, etc., and it’s a weird melting pot.

  • avatar

    OK, I can understand the supportive attitude towards the police, the risks they take, etc., etc., etc.

    But the bottom line is:

    The very basis of the American system of justice is, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

    I have serious reservations about any police office that attempts to work around that statement.

    • 0 avatar

      The officer based his arrest on probable cause so the American legal system is still intact. The arrestee still enjoys the presumption of innocence even when they are in jail. The determination of guilt takes place in court. It really is regrettable that these three people were arrested but I fail to see malice here on the part of the officer although I’m sure it exists out there somewhere in the police realm. I pray for the day that a foolproof test is developed for DUID but given the variety of drugs, legal and illegal that exist, I won’t hold my breath.

      • 0 avatar

        “…the American legal system is still intact…”

        What? No, the officer based “traffic stops” on probable cause. That part is fine, it’s probably nothing, but his call to make. Except he based the arrests on “couldn’t rule-out drug use”. Now that’s bad enough, but once all further tests come back negative, why are these “cases” handed to the prosecutor??

        Defendants cop a plea once they see the prosecutor is “out for blood”, despite lack of evidence.

        Now please explain how the American legal system isn’t broken here??

      • 0 avatar

        Praying and holding your breath should be equally ineffective.

      • 0 avatar

        “The arrestee still enjoys the presumption of innocence even when they are in jail.”

        A night in jail and thousands of dollars in legal fees but you get to “enjoy the presumption of innocence” sounds like a great deal to me. Where do I sign up?

        • 0 avatar

          He’s a cop himself. They live in their own world, many otherwise unemployable, glorified meter readers.

          • 0 avatar

            Cops do live in their own world. Your refusal to try and understand that world doesn’t help.

            I get your frustration. However, this is the way the system is designed (not by cops). It works better than any other system in the world.

            If you don’t like it, suggest (and legislate for) improvements. Don’t just hate on the messenger.

          • 0 avatar

            So what if I don’t understand “that world”? I understand what’s right and wrong, and this cop is unmistakably wrong by arresting people based on a hunch. Then charges are file despite zero evidence with tests coming back negative.

            Yes it’s the *least* broken system in the world (as far as we know, or care to look), but it’s still crazy far from perfect.

          • 0 avatar

            I think you’d need a double-digit IQ to understand their world.

          • 0 avatar

            Your primary fallacy is the assumption that their world is “unmistakably wrong”.

            Again, an honest attempt on your part to understand their world would likely adjust your perspective. As someone who has lived in both worlds, I would say the same to cops.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen this. I’m definitely in favor of keeping intoxicated drivers off the road. However something cops forget about is that they can make people nervous. When I was younger I had a big fear of the police. When pulled over I would be nervous, jittery and evasive. This yahoo cop in GA would arrest me for being high/paranoid.

    • 0 avatar

      “cops forget about is that they can make people nervous”

      While you’ll see me defending LE often, I agree with your point here. Cops don’t just make people nervous, they remove your power (because they have to). This can make a person agitated.

      Many cops recognize this and try to address it. Many cops need to get better at it.

  • avatar

    So if the test comes back clean “the drug could have already metabolized out of her blood”. But if you smoked 2 weeks ago and the test shows residual THC, A-hah! You’re driving high!

    Heads I win, tails you lose.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the win. I’m amazed it has taken a police agency this long to figure it out. Thirty days to clean up after smoking wacky-tobaky. That was what we found when I worked at the treatment center. Cannabis remains in the fat/oils of the body and takes three to four weeks to disappear below levels detectable by standard urine testing. If you fit the age/music playing on the entertainment system/type of vehicle/location (NOTE: this is not profiling!) it’s a better than even chance that the joint you toked in the last couple of weeks at your apartment will show when tested after you’re pulled over this week and locked up for drugged driving. Cha-Ching! Revenue in the drawer for the local authorities. Cocaine, however, is water-soluble. Gone in around 72 hours.

  • avatar

    “Many people, including Mbamara, are encouraged by legal council to take a plea deal rather than fight a case that’s difficult to prove. ”

    WTF? The burden of proof is supposed to be on the prosecution.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a general problem with our legal system. It’s easier and less expensive to plea. It shouldn’t be that way.

      I’ve often felt that the legal system is designed by lawyers to benefit lawyers. The rest doesn’t seem to matter.

  • avatar

    Total Police Net Profit = Fine Revenue – (Police Force costs + Costs of defending bad arrests). Since we know the revenue is important, this means that breathalyzer equivalents for drugs will soon be developed to reduce bad arrest rates that cut into the bottom-line. With the growth in opiate junkies this is a growing source of revenue – see Tiger Woods as a recent example.

  • avatar

    This doesn’t seem to be a malicious or crazy police officer issue. This is a case of police training gone crazy, and of issue advocacy on the drug war achieving yet another grotesque outcome.

    We’re long past the point where anyone should be donating to or promoting MAAD first of all. It has become of prohibitionist organization that doesn’t seen concerned at all about the tragedies that it’s actions can promote. They can’t claim ignorance either, this stuff is obvious.

    As for the police, well, articles and stories like this are a good start. It sounds like the department was sold a bill of goods by the training industry. The cost comes in political humiliation and lawsuits since our judicial system is too poisoned by the drug war to effectively rein in enforcement mistakes.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it’s really a matter of there being no effective field test for drugs. If there were, then this problem could be solved right at the point that the driver is pulled over.

  • avatar

    “I didn’t realize that you could get arrested for something that you didn’t do,” Katelyn Ebner, one of the people arrested by Carroll, told 11Alive in an interview. “That never crossed my mind until it happened to me.”

    Want to know how I know that Katelyn is white?

    I bet Ms. Mbamara was much less surprised by this fact.

  • avatar

    “Police departments take drunk driving seriously…”

    And that’s a good thing, because back in the day, it wasn’t taken seriously at all. Case in point: when I was in high school, drinking and driving was so prevalent that it might as well have been a freakin’ junior varsity sport. Sammy Hagar did a song about it, for cryin’ out loud.

    One night, I was out with some friends, drinking beer in the car, and the girl who was driving hit a tree, which bent up the fender on her dad’s Buick. The cops found us, along with all the empty beer cans in the back seat. What was their reaction? They saw the car was drivable, and told us to go home and sober up.

    Today, you don’t see much of that…but here in Colorado, you see people smoking weed and driving all the time. When you see smoke pouring out of a car, it’s a dead giveaway.

    Having said all that…isn’t there a way that the cops can test for things like THC in the blood in the field? Seems like that’d be feasible, and would eliminate a lot of the guesswork.

    • 0 avatar

      “The cops found us, along with all the empty beer cans in the back seat. What was their reaction? They saw the car was drivable, and told us to go home and sober up.”

      You would prefer that they arrested all of you, made you go to rehab, required high-risk insurance, and gave you a criminal record?

      • 0 avatar

        Well, duh, no. But if we’d known that we risked those kinds of consequences for drinking and driving, maybe we’d have been doffing milkshakes or Orange Crush instead. Maybe a lot of folks would have done the same. And we’d have skipped putting ourselves – and every other driver on the road – in harm’s way while we were at it.

        As a father of two young women who are either driving, or will be soon, I am thankful as hell that the cops don’t take this lightly anymore.

  • avatar

    In Ontario we grant Police officers the power to pull you over with no just cause.

    Last January, it was two weeks before I placed my 61 year old wife in memory care. I hadn’t slept more than 10 hours in three days…On this particular morning I had caregiver scheduled for 9:00 AM. I had 2 hours to run errands ,pick up groceries etc. I had been up since 3:00 AM changing bed sheets , doing laundry, and scrubbing the bathroom. I’ll spare you the details .I took a quick shower and hadn’t shaved for three days.

    Cop pulls me over.. Me : Why did you pull me over ?
    Cop : “You were weaving, Drivers License, Owner ship and Insurance “..He didn’t use the word please .
    Cop: “Step out the car and take your glasses off”
    Cop: “your eyes are blood shot, have you consumed any alcohol .
    Me : No
    Cop : Will you take a breathalyzer ?
    Me : Yup ..(he didn’t bother with the road side test)
    Cop : “Have you taken any drugs or smoked any weed ”
    Me : Well there was that time about 4 years ago fishing with my buddies…I don’t think he liked that answer.
    Cop goes back to his cruiser with my paper work
    Me : Can I get back in my car because its freaking cold…No answer, so i got back into my car. I timed it, 23 minutes of my precious time while the cop runs my info.
    Cop comes back with my documents …Tells me ” I could charge with careless driving” …I was so tempted to say “charge me and my Lawyer will carve you another one after the judge heres my story”….I kept my mouth shut , because 63 year old guys know when its best to STFU.

    I get back on the road, race through the grocery store, and barely made it back in time to relieve my wife caregiver.

    The Cop was just a power tripping, little a$$hole, that somebody gave a badge and a gun to.

  • avatar

    This is the main reason people don’t trust or fear the police especially minorities and women. I would figure the scumbag lawyer cartel would have a field day suing the PD’s for false arrest/imprisonment.

  • avatar

    The real shocker is at the end of the video news story. Two points of interest: Police actually told the reporter that tests are often wrong. Seriously? That’s a statement that would be an attorney’s wet dream. And second, the police said that an officer’s judgement (or opinion, and we all know what opinions and rectums have in common) is more accurate than a scientific test. Honestly, anyone that truly believes that does not have the intellectual capacity to serve in any public role including dog catcher, and sure as hell should not be in the position to deny liberty or life to another human being.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • 28-Cars-Later: “Seems like Japanese cities would be a pretty compelling market” Perhaps the Japanese are...
  • 28-Cars-Later: Perhaps though if you are correct I’d say that’s it for the segment since those Teslas...
  • 28-Cars-Later: “The reason given is that Hyundai Motor Group (which includes Kia) is targeting annual sales of...
  • BSttac: The only reason EVs exist is because of mindless politicians. I want nothing to do with an EV
  • Art Vandelay: Well I can tell you I’ve seen all of 1 in Japan this week. Seems like Japanese cities would be a...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber