Georgia Police Sued by the ACLU Over DUI Marijuana Arrests

A Georgia police department—as well as one specific police officer in the department—has been sued for the arrest of three people based on a report by a so-called “drug recognition expert.” Each of the three plaintiffs were accused of driving under the influence of marijuana by a police officer in the Cobb County Police Department. The ACLU is arguing on the behalf of the plaintiffs that their Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unlawful search and seizures, were violated.

According to the ACLU attorney, the three plaintiffs were falsely arrested, were forced to submit to blood draws, and were placed in jail for hours, based only on the fact that the Cobb County police officer had a “hunch.” This “hunch” was supposedly based on a drug recognition training the ACLU’s legal director calls “deeply flawed.”

In fact, all three of the plaintiffs tested negative for cannabinoid metabolites, and months later, the charges were dismissed. Unfortunately, despite the dismissal, the plaintiffs were left with arrest records which will almost certainly cause them problems in the future with college, renting a home, and obtaining a job.

The ACLU lawsuit claims the police officer was involved in all three of the plaintiffs’ traffic stops, and that he failed to perform the 12-Step DRE Protocol, rather chose to perform a “watered down” version of the test. The ACLU alleges Officer Carroll has a pattern of arresting individuals based on nothing more than a “hunch.” The DRE Protocol was created for the specific purpose of determining whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.

What is the 12-Step DRE Protocol?

The DRE protocol is a systematic, standardized method of examining a driver to determine whether a driver is impaired by drugs, and, if so, which drugs in particular are causing the impairment. The two words—systematic and standardized—are important, as they indicate the DRE evaluation must be conducted the exact same way, by every drug recognition “expert,” for every suspect, and must be based on a complete set of observable signs and symptoms. The DRE Protocol includes the following 12 steps:

  1. A breath alcohol test is administered to the subject.
  2. A DRE police officer interview asks specific questions about the subject’s appearance, behavior and driving, and reviews the results of the BAC test.
  3. The police officer asks the subject a series of standard questions related to the person’s health, recent food ingestion, prescribed medications, alcohol and drugs. The subject’s speech, breath, coordination, face and attitude are noted, and the first pulse of the subject is taken (pulse will be taken three times, total).
  4. The subject is examined for vertical gaze Nystagmus and other eye tests.
  5. Four psycho-physical tests are administered (the Finger to Nose test, the One Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn and the Modified Romberg Balance).
  6. The subject’s blood pressure is taken, along with temperature and a second pulse reading.
  7. The subject’s pupils are examined under three different lighting conditions.
  8. The subject’s skeletal muscle tone is examined.
  9. The subject is checked for injection sites, and a third pulse is taken.
  10. The subject is read his or her Miranda rights, and asked several questions regarding drug use.
  11. Based on all the above, an opinion is formed as to whether the subject is impaired, and if the subject is impaired, what drug is responsible for the impairment.
  12. Urine, blood, and/or saliva tests are taken for toxicology lab analysis.

As you can see, the DRE Protocol is extremely comprehensive, yet the lawsuit alleges Officer Carroll skipped many of these steps, making the determination that the three plaintiffs were driving under the influence of marijuana based on his own personal “hunch.” The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the plaintiffs, as well as attorneys’ fees.

Call Melanie Ellwanger If You Are Facing a Georgia DUI

Police officers do not always follow proper protocol, whether for the DRE, the administration of a breathalyzer test, or when administering field sobriety tests (which are not mandatory). A DUI conviction in the state of Georgia can have serious, long-lasting effects, therefore the best thing you can do after a DUI arrest is to contact a highly experienced DUI criminal defense attorney like Melanie Ellwanger. Melanie is a results-driven DUI attorney who is absolutely committed to helping her DUI clients achieve the very best possible outcome to their DUI charges. Contact Melanie 24/7 at 404-803-3105 or melanie@hiremelaw.com.