Garden City Police charged the father with DUI-Drugs, and with two counts of child endangerment – because his kids were in the back seat.
Two convictions for child endangerment would have been – you don’t see your kids. They either go to your ex-wife or foster care?
“Right,” the professor said. “In the back of my mind the whole time is, I know that I’m innocent, and I didn’t endanger my children in any way.”
“Your husband has been placed under arrest for suspicion of DUI-Drugs,” the officer can be heard telling the professor’s ex-wife on the phone.
“What!?” she’s heard saying incredulously.
“Even my ex said, ‘I know that he wasn’t doing anything to endanger the kids, and know that he doesn’t do drugs or anything like that,’” he said.
“You’re the wife,” the officer said. “Ex-wife?”
“Ex-wife, yes,” she said as she got out of her car.
“He’s going to be under arrest for DUI, okay?” the officer said.
“But—but he doesn’t drink,” she said, still clearly aghast by the officer’s assertion.
“For medication,” the officer said.
The blood test came back positive for one drug: Tylenol PM. Specifically, diphenhydramine – the active ingredient in the allergy medicine Benadryl. Either of these over-the-counter medications can impair a driver worse than alcohol – but only four to six hours after taking one.
Police wanted the professor to take a lesser plea and go to DUI school for a legal over-the-counter medication that he took nearly 24 hours earlier -- a medication that can only impair a driver for four to six hours after taking it.
“I had taken a Tylenol PM,” the professor said. “Nineteen hours before the arrest was made!”
Indeed – the GBI Crime Lab detected the Benadryl in such a small amount, it was consistent with a single dose taken a full day before the traffic stop.
“They wanted me to go to a lesser plea and go to DUI school,” the professor said.
“Because of a Benadryl you took almost 24 hours earlier?” Keefe asked.
“Yeah,” the professor said. “Correct – or the day before.”
“This was the next day,” Keefe said. “The next night – not even the next day, the next night.”
Keefe spoke later with Garden City’s police chief, David Lyons.
“Is this driver innocent of DUI?”
“Well, he is now,” Lyons said. “The court dismissed the charges against him.”
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Lyons once led Georgia’s Association of Chiefs of Police. He says the officer’s opinion is the only tool approved for detecting drugs pre-arrest.
“If it’s alcohol, you can do an intoxilyzer immediately,” Keefe said.
“On the spot,” Lyons agreed. “On the spot. For DUI-Drugs, no such thing. Some tool that I have, beyond an educated guess that you’re impaired or not.”
“It’s like a guessing game,” the professor said. “’Well, maybe the drug test will turn out something.’”
The officer did not have a crystal ball. He had no way of telling what the drug test would reveal weeks or months into the future. The GBI Crime Lab takes an average of seven weeks to test for drugs alone -- and nearly three months if testing for alcohol as well. In the meantime, the future for the accused is unclear, and their world is turned upside down.
Garden City Police Chief David Lyons
“I know that when you go to a doctor, you can get results from lab tests in three days at the most,” he said. “But here, because it has to go to the GBI and all this stuff, it’s going to take three months to get your lab tests back.”
“You may not get a definitive answer for weeks or months?” Keefe asked Chief Lyons.
“Exactly,“ the police chief responded.
“Sir, would you mind stepping back here for me please?” the officer asked.
So, the only drug detector available in the field is the police officer himself.
Back in on the side of the road, the officer can be heard saying, “What I’m gonna have you do is put your back to my patrol car and just face me.”
“You could have gone to jail and lost your kids over the opinion of a police officer?” said Keefe.
“That’s right,” the professor said.
State records show the arresting officer completed advanced roadside impairment training – including drug detection – just 15 days before stopping the professor.
“If you give someone a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail?” Keefe asked rhetorically.
“Absolutely,” the professor replied.
Keefe asked Chief Lyons, “Is there a human element once you get advanced training that causes you to see things that are either there or not there?”
“I don’t – I don’t have an answer for that,” Lyons said. “I would – that argument can probably be made that, ‘I have this new training, and I’m going to go out and show the world that I know how to do all this stuff and I’m going to take advantage of my new latest toy.’ Maybe.”
The professor was not convinced.
“He’s just jumping to these conclusions that affect people’s lives – really playing with people’s lives,” the professor said. “It’s not a toy. It’s not ‘let’s pull him out and check his sobriety; let’s go see what we can find.’ It’s like somebody’s life you’re dealing with.”