A Georgia police department and one of its officers has been sued for arresting three people based on a report by a “drug recognition expert” who accused each of driving under the influence of marijuana.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed the lawsuit earlier this week in federal court in Atlanta against the Cobb County Police Department, arguing that the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful seizures were violated.
The three plaintiffs — Katelyn Ebner, Princess Mbamara and Ayokunle Oriyomi — were falsely arrested, forced to have blood drawn and trapped in jail for hours “simply because a police officer had a hunch, based on deeply flawed drug-recognition training, that they might have been smoking marijuana,” said Sean J. Young, the ACLU’s legal director.
“At no point did the police officer seek to obtain a warrant or suggest that they were endangering public safety. None of the plaintiffs were under the influence of marijuana, and all tested negative for any cannabinoid metabolites,” the lawsuit said.
Months later, prosecutors dismissed the charges in each case, Young said.
Ebner, 25, of Kennesaw, had no arrest record prior to this case; Mbamara, 27, is an immigrant from Lagos, Nigeria and currently a student at Atlanta Metropolitan State College; and Oriyomi, 21, of Powder Springs, is currently a student at Auburn University.
“All three plaintiffs now have public arrest records that they will have to explain to schools, landlords and employers for the rest of their lives,” the lawsuit said.
A police spokesman did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The police officer, Tracy “T.T.” Carroll, is one of the department’s certified drug recognition experts. He either stopped or participated in a stop of each of the plaintiffs on three separate occasions for “failing to maintain lane.”
“Defendant Carroll did not perform the 12-Step DRE Protocol that was ostensibly created for the purpose of detecting whether someone has been driving under the influence of drugs. Instead he performed a watered-down version of the test” and arrested each of the plaintiffs for driving under the influence of drugs, the lawsuit said.
Carroll was never reprimanded or disciplined for failing to follow DRE Protocol or for making the arrests, the ACLU said.
“Carroll’s pattern and practice of enforcing DUI-drug infractions was to arrest an individual based on nothing more than a hunch, which would be invariably ratified by the results of an ad hoc smattering of tests he administered which were divorced from any rigorous methodology and were without the foundational underpinning necessary to amount to legal justification to arrest,” the lawsuit said.
“The way that Cobb County Police Officers, such as defendant Carroll, are taught to and do administer their testing for the detection of impairment by drugs is designed to make innocent behavior appear incriminating and to make exculpatory behavior appear irrelevant.”
The lawsuit seeks obtain compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys’ fees.
WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. —Action News Investigates has learned the West Mifflin school board narrowly voted against suspending Superintendent Daniel Castagna after he was charged with driving under the influence. Sources say the vote came after a heated discussion behind closed doors.According to a police report, Castagna was pulled over at 3 a.m. Friday while driving on Interstate 376 westbound near the Center Township exit in Beaver County.AdvertisementA state trooper saw his car “weaving erratically and then abruptly swerve to the right,” according to the police report. When the trooper pulled him over, Castagna was slurring his words, smelled of alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot. A hospital test showed Castagna had a blood alcohol level of .15, nearly twice the legal limit.Stay updated with breaking news: Download the WTAE mobile appCastagna faces charges of driving under the influence, careless driving and traffic offenses. A preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 27.Castagna was not immediately available for comment.District Solicitor, Matthew Racunas, released the following statement:As reported, the District’s Superintendent is being charged with DUI during non-work hours. Dr. Castagna has informed the District that he has not yet received any documents relating to the charges.The District takes these allegations seriously. However, the law requires that Dr. Castagna be provided with due process. Currently, there are no convictions relating to any offense. The District will continue to closely monitor the situation as it proceeds through the court system going forward. Beyond that, at this time, the District cannot comment further as this remains a confidential personnel matter.
An off-duty LAPD officer was the driver of a Chevy Camaro that rear-ended a vehicle on the 605 Freeway in Whittier on Tuesday night, killing its three occupants, the California Highway Patrol said.Joseph Serna and Kate MatherContact ReportersThe Los Angeles Police Department has opened an administrative investigation after one of its officers was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed a boy and his parents Tuesday night.The officer, 26-year-old Edgar Verduzco, was driving a 2016 Chevy Camaro in the southbound carpool lane of the 605 Freeway about 10:30 p.m. in Whittier when, for reasons still unknown, he steered the vehicle to the right and into the fast lane, where it collided with the rear of a Nissan carrying a mother, father and their son, the California Highway Patrol said.The Nissan, which had been traveling about 65 mph, burst into flames, trapping the family inside, the CHP said. All three were pronounced dead at the scene. The boy was believed to be in his teens, CHP Officer Al Perez said. The victims probably won’t be positively identified until at least next week because the bodies are so badly charred, the coroner said.After colliding with the Nissan, Verduzco’s Camaro continued into the No. 2 lane, where it struck a Toyota Scion before coming to a stop, the CHP said. The driver of the Scion suffered minor injuries.
Chief Charlie Beck addressed his officer’s arrest at a news conference Wednesday.“My heart goes out to the victims and their families, and I cannot tell you how angry and disappointed I am that a Los Angeles police officer would disregard the law and cause an accident with such awful, awful consequences,” Beck said. “This is an awful, awful thing.”The agency has opened an administrative investigation into Verduzco and is cooperating with the CHP, he said.Verduzco is an Army veteran who did a tour in Afghanistan and joined the department two years ago, Beck said. Verduzco was stationed at the front desk of the Central Division and has had an “unremarkable” career thus far, Beck said.Beck said it was too early in the case to discuss discipline, but he said that if the allegations proved to be true, it could merit sending the officer to a disciplinary board for potential termination.The officer will continue to be paid pending further disciplinary action by the department.Verduzco suffered a broken nose in the crash and was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI causing injuries, authorities said. He is being held on $100,000 bail.The Los Angeles Police Protective League also released a statement regarding Verduzco’s arrest.“No words can express our deep sorrow over this horrible tragedy and the loss this family will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” the union’s statement said. “There’s never an excuse for driving under the influence, and if Officer Verduzco is found guilty of what he is accused of, then he should suffer the consequences for his reckless actions.”There were no open containers or alcohol in the car, but Verduzco showed symptoms of intoxication, Perez said.A SigAlert was issued and traffic lanes were shut down. They reopened before 4 a.m. Wednesday.The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
I am wondering if I should or should not request a hearing. I just received the paper in the mail. I did submit to a chemical test. BAC was .271. I am not sure what the hearing is going to do? Please help?
In almost every case you should request a hearing. There always is a possibility that you may not lose your license under this law. It could save 20 months on an interlock license. We offer free consultations. Please call.
PLAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio – A man who was arrested in Plain Township, Ohio last week hoped his girlfriend would come pick him up from the Stark County Sheriff’s Office.
She did, but there was a problem. She was drunk, too.
According to the sheriff’s office, a sergeant first spotted 23-year-old Kristopher Fox speeding. He ended up clocking Fox going 42 mph in a 25 mph zone.
The sergeant initiated a traffic stop. As he was approaching the car, he said he smelled a strong odor of alcohol.
In the report, the sergeant said he observed an empty 12-pack of beer of the passenger seat, as well as another 12-pack with a couple beers missing.
Fox allegedly admitted to drinking “a few beers.” The sergeant conducted field sobriety tests, which Fox failed. He ultimately took a breathalyzer test with a .147 BAC result.
He was taken to the Stark County Sheriff’s Office and charged with OVI. He asked that authorities call his girlfriend to pick him up.
The sergeant called his girlfriend, 29-year-old Brandi Rae Coen, but over the phone, she appeared to sound intoxicated.
The sergeant told her that, if she was drunk, she shouldn’t drive, according to the sheriff’s office report. She said she was okay and that she had not been drinking.
When Coen showed up, the sergeant said she smelled like alcohol, had glassy eyes and appeared to have trouble walking.
During field sobriety testing, she reportedly said she was too drunk and told the sergeant to just take her to jail.
After she was arrested, authorities found two children in her car — ages 5 and 9.
Coen also took a breathalyzer test and registered a .162 BAC. She was charged with OVI and two counts of child endangering.