'The Drug Whisperer' | Drivers Arrested While Stone Cold Sober
Drunk driving arrests are down sharply after decades of aggressive enforcement while drugged driving arrests are climbing. That’s why Georgia has more than 250 officers with special ‘Drug Recognition Expert’ training. But the 11Alive Investigators discovered those ‘experts’ sometimes put innocent people behind bars.
Drunk driving arrests are down sharply after decades of aggressive enforcement, while drugged driving arrests are climbing.
Georgia now has more than 250 officers with special ‘drug recognition expert’ training.
But 11Alive News Chief Investigator Brendan Keefe discovered some drivers are getting arrested for driving stoned — even when their drug tests came back clean.
CHAPTER 1: DRIVERS ARRESTED WHILE STONE COLD SOBER
Katelyn Ebner was arrested after she left her job as a server at a bar in Cobb County.
Cobb County Police Officer T.T. Carroll: “You said you haven’t had anything to drink tonight?”
Katelyn Ebner: “Not tonight, no.”
Officer Carroll: “Not tonight, okay. One of the things we do is we ask people to blow through this thing, okay.”
Officer Carroll:“I’m going to ask you a question, okay? When was the last time you smoked marijuana?”
Katelyn Ebner:“Oh, I don’t do that. I can give you a drug test right now.”
Officer Carroll:“You don’t smoke marijuana?”
Katelyn Ebner:“I do not, no.”
Officer Carroll:“Okay. Well, you’re showing me indicators that you have been smoking marijuana, okay?”
“I didn’t realize that you could get arrested for something that you didn’t do,” Ebner told Keefe. “That never crossed my mind until it happened to me.”
Officer Carroll: “Watch your wrists for me, I don’t want to pinch you.”
Katelyn Ebner: “I’m going to jail for marijuana?”
Officer Carroll: “No, ma’am — not possession, unless I find any in your car. I believe you’re impaired by the marijuana you’ve smoked.”
Katelyn Ebner: “Okay, so when I do a drug test, I’ll be free to go, correct?”
Officer Carroll: “You’re going to jail, ma’am. Okay? I don’t have a magical drug test that I can give you right now.”
“Before you felt the handcuffs closing over your wrist, did you understand just how serious this was?” Keefe asked Ebner.
“I didn’t understand,” Ebner said. “As soon as I took that breathalyzer, I thought I was going home.”
The waitress spent the night in jail, had her alcohol server’s permit revoked because of the arrest. After four months, prosecutors dismissed all her charges — because the blood test came back completely clean.
“You had to spend months — and thousands of dollars — proving your innocence,” Keefe said.
“I did,” Ebner said.
Officer Carroll: “When’s the last time you smoked weed?”
Princess Mbamara: “I don’t smoke weed.”
Officer Carroll: “You don’t smoke weed?”
Princess Mbamara: “No. Not at all.”
Officer Carroll: “Okay.”
The same thing happened to college student Princess Mbamara two weeks earlier — on Good Friday.
Officer Carroll: “Just one second — Just give me one second.”
Princess Mbamara: “You’re arresting me!?”
Officer Carroll: “That’s correct.”
Princess Mbamara: “Sir, hold on one second. I’m complying.”
“I didn’t understand,” Mbamara told Keefe. “I was like, ‘Why are you arresting me? What did I do? I did everything. I walked the straight line, I touched my nose, I did everything you asked.’ I was like, ‘Why am I getting arrested?’ And he said, ‘DUI of a substance.’ And I was like, ‘What!?'”
Princess Mbamara: “You’re arresting me because you think I smoke marijuana?”
Officer Carroll: “I think you’re impaired by cannabis, yes, ma’am.”
Princess Mbamara: “Sir, I don’t smoke weed! Is there a way you can test me right now?”
Princess Mbamara was also jailed. She fought the DUI-drug charges for half of 2016.
“So the blood test comes back, and they toss the case?” Keefe asked.
Princess Mbamara’s toxicology screening only showed positive for lidocaine – an over-the-counter medication used in products like these back pain medication patches, available for less than $10 at Walmart.
“I remember my lawyer trying to talk about a deal,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m not taking a deal. I didn’t do anything! I want more than just a deal — I want more than just dismissal; I want my life back. Can you reverse time? If you can go back in time, then that’s what I really want.'”
Mbamara’s toxicology screen came back and only showed positive for lidocaine — an over-the-counter local topical anesthetic used in transdermal patches to treat back pain, insect bites and other types of pain and discomfort. Lidocaine can be found in many other anti-burn, anti-itch and pain creams, lotions and medications sold both over-the-counter and by prescription under a myriad of brand names, including Aspercreme, Icy Hot, Salonpas, Preparation H, Gold Bond, Solarcaine and others.
An Auburn University student was also arrested by Officer Carroll using the same drug recognition screening protocol. After his blood and urine tests came back negative, charges were dropped by the prosecutor five months later.
Officer Carroll: “How’re you doing?”
Auburn Student: “I’m doing great.”
Officer Carroll: “Okay — Let’s just walk over here for a second.”
Auburn Student: “All right.”
Months later, it happened again to an Auburn University student.
Officer Carroll: “You’re giving me indicators that you have consumed marijuana, okay? So at this time, I believe that your failure to maintain lane was the reason for that — so you’re being placed under arrest for DUI, okay?”