Georgia “hero” Arrests and Cages Sober, Not Stoned Woman

9
2077
This "hero" has magic powers!
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When a Cobb County, Georgia, “hero” pulled Katelyn Ebner over in April 2016, the 23-year-old figured she had nothing to be worried about. She’d just gotten off a waitressing shift at a restaurant, but she hadn’t been drinking. She was tired, maybe, but not drunk ― and certainly not high.

Over the course of a nearly half-hour traffic stop, however, “hero” Tracy Carroll made it clear that he believed Ebner was driving intoxicated, which had supposedly caused her car to cross the center line. And Carroll was intent on confirming that suspicion using his training as a drug recognition expert, a controversial certification that some critics say can put innocent people in jail based on “guesswork.”

In a dashcam video later obtained by WXIA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta that first reported on Ebner’s story, Carroll asks Ebner to step out of her vehicle, then he proceeds to conduct a 20-minute field sobriety test. Ebner repeatedly says she’s “nervous,” telling Carroll it’s the first time she’s been pulled over. At one point, Carroll shines a bright, blueish light into Ebner’s eyes for nearly three minutes. He asks her to blow into a Breathalyzer, which returns a negative result. Then Carroll makes Ebner perform a number of exercises: walk heel-to-toe, touch her nose, look here, look there.

Finally, he makes his conclusion.

“You’re showing me indicators that you have smoked marijuana,” Carroll tells Ebner as he goes to handcuff her.

“The only thing that I can honestly think of is I’m anemic, like, highly anemic. You can check my records,” Ebner pleads. “I do not smoke weed. I do not do any of that stuff. I do not do that stuff. I have never had any problems. Nothing.”

Ebner asks if Carroll can give her a drug test to prove that she’s sober, but he’s made up his mind.

“You’re going to jail, ma’am,” he says. “I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now.”

Carroll is right about the last part. There is no standardized field screening device for law enforcement to tell if a motorist is driving while drugged. So police departments around the country rely on so-called experts like Carroll.

These “heroes”  take drug evaluation and classification programs designed to help them identify not only if drivers are impaired but also which substances they might have taken. The program relies on a 12-step evaluation that consists of physical, mental and medical components.

Carroll is one of Cobb County’s most prolific drug recognition experts (DREs), racking up 90 DUI arrests in 2016, according to WXIA. If his arrest of Ebner is any indication, however, the method isn’t perfect.

Because of Carroll’s observations, Ebner spent the night in jail, accused of driving under the influence, which caused her to lose her alcohol server’s permit for work. Although she maintained her innocence and submitted to a required blood test, Ebner wouldn’t be fully vindicated until four months later, when that test, as well as a separate urine screen she got through a private lab, came back negative.

With scientific evidence to counter Carroll’s conclusion, prosecutors dropped the charges against Ebner. But not before she spent thousands of dollars in legal fees, she says.

The Cobb County Police Department said it was reviewing Ebner’s arrest but believed Carroll had acted in accordance with his training.

“We are aware of the WXIA reporter’s piece, and we are continuing to look internally at how we do these DUI investigations and the protocol and procedures that are currently in place within the department,” said Sgt. Dana Pierce, a public information officer for the department.

“As a state-certified and nationally accredited law enforcement agency, we are very concerned about [DUI] cases outside of alcohol that appear to be on the increase in our local jurisdictions, state and nationally,” Pierce added. “We will strive to continue to protect our community from people who choose to drive under the influence.”

As WXIA reports, Ebner’s ordeal wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2016, Carroll arrested at least two more motorists on suspicion of driving while high on marijuana only to have their drug tests come back negative.

He went ahead and arrested her anyway on guesswork ― pure guesswork.William Head, criminal defense attorney

“They’re ruining people’s lives,” Ebner told WXIA.

These sorts of field screening tests are troubling to William Head, a Georgia criminal defense attorney.

“The case law around the country says if a person has had this additional training, they’re allowed to get up [on the stand] and tell the jury that they have special training and can detect things that even a doctor can’t detect,” Head told HuffPost.

In Ebner’s case, it appeared to Head that Carroll had conducted a “bastardized form” of the DRE training.

“He did not go through all the protocols. He did part of them,” said Head. “He went ahead and arrested her anyway on guesswork ― pure guesswork.”

Cases like this could suggest these drug recognition programs may be in need of further examination to ensure they’re not based on “junk science,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The most disturbing part to O’Donnell was the fact that Carroll had effectively sentenced Ebner “on the side of the road,” based entirely on seemingly subjective observations.

“To me, the big question is why do people have to be held in jail?” said O’Donnell. “It’s a fundamental, core injustice to be punishing someone who turns out to be clearly innocent.”

O’Donnell suggested that a court summons might suffice in a case like Ebner’s, especially considering the relative lack of certainty that she was actually intoxicated. Then he brought up the case of Sandra Bland, the black motorist who died in a Texas jail in 2015 following a violent arrest at a traffic stop, which he said should serve as a reminder that police must proceed carefully before locking people up.

“People die, they commit suicide, they lose their jobs ― there are consequences to these things,” said O’Donnell. “Just messing with people, you should have a very clear road map of what that’s about.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Ah yes, the infamous “Drug Whisperer” of Cobb County, GA. I believe that his ‘training”, and no, AFAIK, he’s not at least a pre-med student like (Senator) John Blutarsky, who could advise Flounder that his anguish over his older brother’s ruined Cadillac was to drink heavily, amounted to TWENTY hours.

    Yes, we’ve heard all the pontificating about the “drug epidemic”, including Rx abuse, but really, is the problem due to driving while “stoned”? HELL NO. It’s that DUI enforcement is actually SUCCEEDING in its ostensible purpose, to curb drunk driving and “get drunks off the road”…so revenue from DUI fines, fees, and, most important, kickbacks from various things like probation monitoring contractors and ignition interlocks are DOWN…and various municipalities and the states are worried that their cash cow has “gone on the wagon”. So now, ANYONE who exhibits “symptoms” which can be as readily explained by either fatigue or common physiological conditions that do not impair the ability to drive is now suspected of “drugged driving”.
    Although I would like to see Jeff Spicoli and his stoner buds not drive about in their “Bong-mobile”, hot-boxing their way to RIdgemont High, there is in fact very little science, unlike alcohol, that reasonably establishes a correlation between “intoxication” levels and impairment. In fact, some reactionary states like AZ have a policy to take a snippet of hair from a detainee, and if it tests positive for presence of cannaboids, arrest for drugged driving, even though presence in human hair does not correlate to impairment, as they can be present days or even weeks after indulging in the wacky weed. This is tantamount to a back door method of reinstating marijuana prohibition

    Remember, it’s not about public s-a-a-a-f-e-e-e-t-e-e- it’s about the MONEY, and always has been..

    • Hi Doug,

      I’ll run this one farther down the field – as I’m famous for doing!

      Just as speed limits are arbitrary and do not – cannot – allow for the wide variety in individual driving ability, so also this business of “impairment.”

      There are people who are atrocious drivers when completely sober – and there are people who are excellent drivers, even though they’ve had a drink or two (or even more). “Impairment” can just as accurately be defined as “having poor eyesight” or “slow reflexes” or simply not being a good driver, substances aside.

      It’s roughly analogous to other human differences in capacity, such as strength and speed and endurance.

      It would be obviously idiotic to – as an example – outlaw more than four flights of stairs because some people (old people with arthritis, the handicapped) can’t deal with them. There are people who can easily run up those four flights. Should they be Harrison Bergeroned? That is what speed limits and arbitrary DWI BAC laws amount to.

      I despise these “checkpoints” as the affront to common decency which they are. Why should anyone have to demonstrate they are not “drunk” or “high”? This is a reversal of the old – and decent – practice of having to have probable cause before subjecting any person to a criminal investigation. They used to have to be able to point to some tangible reason for suspecting you were “impaired” – such as wandering all over the road or other such erratic/abnormal driving. Then they could stop you. But even then, it was on them to establish you’d been drinking or whatever. They had ti prove it. You were not obliged to disprove it.

      Then along came the Moms. They were “concerned.” And now we have the Female Standard of can’t-be-too-safe, which justifies every affront to the old Western ideas of leaving people be unless they have specifically and individually done something to warrant suspicion.

  2. “The Cobb County Police Department said it was reviewing Ebner’s arrest but believed Carroll had acted in accordance with his training.”

    If you can get them asking the wrong questions…..

  3. People want and need to trust in good police work, not guess work with merit systems and perks for high numbers (whether by the institutions or friends of, like M.A.D.D.). If an officer becomes investigated for criminal activity, it can through perception of prior “iffy” calls into question, and not much different here, without validation by an impartial diagnostic tool, his personal calls are now suspect and his prior high numbers questionable.

    Plus, these agencies are quick to judge but slow to process evidence and slower to accept it and their own responsibilities in the losses of the people they wrongly affect. Build some trust, the arrest are swift, so should proper processing of the evidence (video, blood, breath, fluids . . not four months to a year later). Embarrassing and . . . what if judgement is wrong on someone ‘let go’ ….

  4. Same thing happened to me. I’d been to one of those “man of the year” dinners. I was tired, been working midnight shifts so I ate my steak and went to sleep. My wife and another couple had been banging back drinks all night. We leave and I drive since I’m sober. But leaving that place the DPS was hanging out looking for a victim and since we had out of county plates, we were it.

    The back of the car which is new but filthy had been run into by a rotary hoe(implement for tearing up slicked over ground to keep sand from blowing and ruining the crop) so it looked like it had been strafed by an automatic weapon. I’m thinking when the light comes on, This damned car. But he said “The reason I stopped you is you were weaving”. Nobody had to tell me what came next. I had just opened a beer a mile away being too sober to drive and knew if I blew I’d have evidence against me. So sitting in jail that night, sober beyond belief, I sang the blues and bs’d with the jailer who shook her head at my supposedly drunk condition. She said I was the soberest person she’d seen that night.

    Come to find out, the DPS, a staunch Babdis and his wife, chairman of the local MADD chapter were not believed by anyone. He didn’t come to court since his record made him non-believeable. In court, every person there knew him and allowed as to how he was not a credible witness and wouldn’t show up. So, an attorney fee, court costs and pleading guilty to a non-driving offense and fine for that cost a few grand.

    The hilarious part but only in the respect it was so ludicrous was him taking me out of the car, a guy who’s just had a 3-4 hour nap and installed my wife in the drivers seat and she was bombed. They were all saying “we’ll sheeeya n’a mornin'”and here I am completely sober. I didn’t even get half a beer down. The least they could have done is get me a 12 pack for the overnight stay.

    For all those pheroes who bring people in on drug charges, they have to know what they’re doing is worse than anything the drug might do. I know of one person prison saved from dying and that’s according to that person. He told me he was next to dead and would have died shortly had he not been taken away from his whiskey bottle. I had no reason to doubt him either. He didn’t get just drunk, he got so hammered every day he’d pass out standing up and end up in the ER with a brain hemorrhage, twice. For every person like him, there are thousands who aren’t even getting out of the house, a danger to no one including themselves. Oh, when you can’t find your hat in the morning and seek something cold to drink and your hat’s in the fridge, you were probably pretty high but a danger to someone? Not likely. And no, it wasn’t me who left his hat in the fridge. I can generally move the largest pile of cats and find my hat.

  5. Hope she sues. She has too, she has to recover something. Waitresses cannot afford lawyers, can’t afford to be off work, can’t afford to not be able to serve alcohol.

    Arrested for being tired.

  6. “The only thing that I can honestly think of is I’m anemic, like, highly anemic. You can check my records,” Ebner pleads. “I do not smoke weed. I do not do any of that stuff. I do not do that stuff. I have never had any problems. Nothing.”

    Poor girl. Don’t you know the bastard cannot be bargained with, he cannot be reasoned with, he doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or sympathy, and he absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are in jail?

    • Hi Brian,

      Yup. And note the shaved head asshole profile. Another Hut! Hut! Hut! piece of garbage who enjoys fucking with people. I only pray that Der Tag Kommt

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