The shocking answer to this question is yes, and one woman who was a victim of this was forced to hire a criminal defense attorney and spend thousands of dollars just to prove she was innocent after being wrongfully charged with DUI.
Imagine you are pulled over by a police officer and accused of operating your vehicle while impaired, yet you haven’t consumed any drugs or alcohol. What would you do and how would you combat this accusation? After all, there is only so much that can be done as you don’t want to be charged with resisting an officer’s commands nor do you want to argue with one. Well, this nightmare of a scenario became a reality for one Georgia woman who was pulled over and told she had smoked marijuana, even though she hadn’t.
How it happened.
Back in April 2016, Katelyn Ebner was on her way home from her waitressing shift when she was pulled over by Officer Tracy Carroll. Carroll was led to believe Ebner was driving while intoxicated when she crossed the center line in the roadway. That gave the officer reasonable cause to pull Ebner over although Ebner wasn’t drunk or high, but tired. The traffic stop became more than Ebner ever imagined lasting nearly 30 minutes. So why did the traffic stop last so long if Ebner wasn’t driving while under the influence and was merely on her way home from work?
According to Officer Carroll, who is a trained drug recognition expert (DRE), Ebner was guilty of DUI which prompted him to have her step out of the vehicle where she was asked to participate in a number of different field sobriety tests. Carroll had Ebner take part in a 20-minute test and proceeded to shine a bright bluish light into her eyes for almost three minutes. That was witnessed on dash cam footage received by WXIA-TV. Carroll wasn’t satisfied yet though. He then had Ebner blow into a breathalyzer, and of course, it returned negative results. So, what did Officer Carroll do next?
Ebner was Accused of Being High of Marijuana and Arrested
Because Carroll was so confident in his skills, training, and certification in being a DRE, he was able to accuse Ebner of smoking marijuana since he couldn’t prove she had consumed alcohol. The problem with this is that many believe DRE certifications are just a form of accreditation to accuse individuals of consuming drugs, but many innocent people are placed in jail because of it. Why? Well, officers are simply relying on their judgement, observations, and indirect evidence-no facts to accuse someone of driving while drugged.
Unfortunately for Ebner, there was and is no way an officer can test for drug usage at the scene of a traffic stop. That is why Ebner was arrested and placed in jail overnight. And that wasn’t it. She was also accused of driving under the influence and lost her alcohol server’s permit for work.
While Ebner did obtain legal representation from a Georgia criminal defense lawyer because she was in fact innocent, she “wouldn’t be vindicated until four months later” when her blood test and a separate urine screening went through a private lab and displayed negative results. And to make matters worse, Ebner had to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees according to Huffington Post just to prove she wasn’t high the night Carroll pulled her over.
Officer Carroll is recognized as one of Cobb County’s most “prolific drug recognition experts” as he had 90 DUI arrests in 2016 alone. But, you’re now probably wondering how many of those were legitimate arrests. What if some of those individuals were just like Ebner, an innocent and might we mention sober motorist trying to get home from a long day of work? What if they didn’t have the funds to hire a criminal defense attorney in Georgia like Ebner did?