Driving Under the Influence of Canada: Possession of Strange, Foreign Driver's License Sends Woman to Georgia Slammer

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Any number of unpleasant things can befall a motorist after an unexpected, police-initiated roadside stop. Asset seizure being just one of the dangers. Of course, suspected drug use can also ruin your day, as well as your life.

For an Ontario woman pulled over for speeding on the I-75 in Cook County, Georgia, the item that landed her in jail was exactly what the officer asked for: a driver’s license. Sorry, wrong country, she was told.

According to CBC, the 27-year-old woman’s legal saga started in April. While driving back to Tennessee through Georgia, Emily Nield, who recently completed a master’s degree in geology in the Volunteer State, was pulled over for doing 87 mph in a 70 zone.

While this type of encounter would normally leave a motorist fuming over a pricey ticket, Nield soon found herself in handcuffs. When handed an Ontario driver’s license, the officer was in no mood to recognize Georgia law, which states that non-U.S. residents are allowed to drive with a valid license from their country of origin.

“She kept saying, ‘No, Canadian licences are not accepted,'” Nield told CBC. “I was flabbergasted. I just kept saying this can’t be right — a Canadian licence is always valid.”

Foreign motorists might find themselves asked to produce identification — like a passport — to prove that everything’s on the up and up. That’s exactly what the officer asked Nield, who claims to have had a copy of her passport, birth certificate, and Nexus card on her phone. However, the officer wanted hard copies.

“When I failed to produce it, she reached through the window of my car and she put handcuffs on me,” said Nield. “She told me that I have just been arrested for driving without a licence and that I needed to go to jail.”

And that’s exactly where she ended up. However, before having her photo and prints taken (and told that she was firmly “in the system” now), she fired off a Snapchat video to her friends, appealing for help. Maybe social media does have its uses. A friend tracked Nield down in Adel, Georgia, and contacted the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, after which Nield was allowed a phone call. She claims her requests for a call with the Canadian Consulate or her parents went unanswered.

Nield eventually put up her own bail via a debit card ($880 USD), thus avoiding the unpleasant experience of waiting in jail until her June 12th court appearance rolled around. Getting her car out of impound cost $200. Still, it’s wasn’t the financial penalties that worried Nield.

“I just kept thinking this would ruin me,” Nield told CBC. “Any job application you have to check a box. Are you a criminal? Have you ever been convicted or arrested for anything?”

Luckily for Nield, a friend’s father worked as a lawyer in Virginia. With the help of the consulate, the lawyer leaned on local authorities, and three days later the charge was off the books. However, it’s not hard to imagine a more drawn out ordeal had this been someone without useful connections and know-how.

Despite her arrest no longer being in the system, Nield remains disturbed by what happened. The Cook County probate court solicitor, Matthew Bennett, said Canadians and other non-U.S. drivers should make sure to carry their identification while plying American roadways, but that’s not what landed Nield in jail. Nield said it wouldn’t have mattered if she was carrying the original documents, as the officer wasn’t prepared to recognize any Canadian license as legal. (Bad news for the thousands of snowbirds who drive south each winter in search of heat.)

For that, she’d like to see an apology — if not a formal reprimand for the arresting officer.

[Image: Sue Smith/Shutterstock.com]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Johnds Johnds on Mar 26, 2023

    Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.

    • Sayahh Sayahh on Mar 26, 2023

      Does your computer system allow for notes on plates that do not come up in case the same motorist gets pulled over again for infractions?

  • Kendahl Kendahl on Mar 27, 2023

    I might believe that, on a back road in a rural county, one might run into a cop who doesn't know the law he is paid to enforce. However, I-75 is the main route for snowbirds, of whom a sizeable fraction are Canadian, commuting to and from Florida. It was the cop's responsibility to know that Florida honors foreign licenses. Nield should have hired a lawyer to rub that in.

  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
  • Lou_BC "That’s expensive for a midsize pickup" All of the "offroad" midsize trucks fall in that 65k USD range. The ZR2 is probably the cheapest ( without Bison option).
  • Lou_BC There are a few in my town. They come out on sunny days. I'd rather spend $29k on a square body Chevy