Georgia Cop Exposed for Arresting Sober Drivers for DUI

By Paul Gaita 05/16/17

The so-called "drug recognition expert" arrested multiple motorists for DUI who were later found innocent.

driver pulled over by police

A police officer in Atlanta, Georgia—trained to evaluate drivers suspected of being impaired by drugs or alcohol—has been recorded on multiple occasions placing individuals under arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) which later proved to be false. WXIA in Atlanta launched an investigation into Cobb County police officer Tracy Carroll after dashboard camera videos revealed him arresting and jailing three separate drivers for alleged marijuana use, which he determined as part of his training as a "drug recognition expert" (DRE) – a state certification obtained by a two-week course – but which were all subsequently dismissed due to toxicology reports. In two of the cases, the charges came at a substantial cost to the defendants, while Officer Carroll has earned a promotion, a merit raise and a citation for 90 DUI arrests in 2016 alone.

In all three videos, Carroll can been seen questioning the drivers – waitress Katleyn Ebner, nursing student Princess Mbamara and an unidentified student in Auburn University – about drinking after pulling them over. In all three cases, the drivers state that they had not consumed alcohol, to which Carroll responds by stating that "indicators" suggest to him that they have used marijuana. Ebner offers to take a drug test on the spot, while Mbamara states that she has never smoked pot. Carroll continues to insist that the drivers are showing signs that they have consumed marijuana, and to their considerable dismay, places all three in cuffs and under arrest. When asked if she will be released from jail if she provides a drug test, Carroll replies curtly, "You're going to jail, ma'am. Okay? I don't have a magical drug test that I can give you right now." In all three cases, toxicology reports indicated that none of the three individuals showed traces of any drugs in their systems.

The first DRE programs were implemented by the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1970s, and were intended to provide officers with a standardized, 12-step process to evaluate if a driver was impaired from drugs or alcohol, and rule out if medical conditions were the cause of the impairment. The programs have the support of police and law enforcement organizations, as well as groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which awarded Cobb County's DUI Task Force with a trophy in May for its efforts. But situations like the ones involving Officer Carroll have been cited by lawyers like Fresno-based defense attorney Eric Schweitzer as police "masquerading as scientists."

Georgia criminal defense attorney, William Head, agrees with Schweitzer's assessment of DREs being simply "pure guesswork" in deciding to arrest motorists. "The case law around the country says that 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 detect things that even a doctor can't detect."

In Carroll's case, Head said that the Dacca videos reveal that he didn't even conduct the proper 12 steps to determine impairment. In the case of the Auburn student, Carroll says that he cuffed the individual because he established "probable cause," while in the video with Ebner, he tells her that "several indicators" have led him to confirm that she used marijuana. "He did not go through all the protocols. He did part of them," said Head. "[But] he went ahead and arrested her anyway on guesswork."

In a statement regarding the arrests, the Cobb County Police Department said that it was "aware of the WXIA piece, and we are continuing to look internally into how we do these DUI investigations and the protocol and procedures that are currently in place within the department." But Carroll also appears to have the unwavering support of his department, which has referred to him as the "go-to officer when it comes to DUI-drugs." Of the three individuals whose arrests were thrown out, both Ebner and Mbarama spent considerable time and money fighting the DUI charges. Ebner also lost her alcohol server's license as a result of the arrest. According to Ebner, Cobb County investigators alleged that Carroll followed procedure and her negative drug test was most likely wrong.

"He's getting praised for arresting innocent people," she 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."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.