Ahhh, Orlando, Florida. Home of Sea World, putt putt, Mickey Mouse, and Epcot. Apparently, they’ve got some drug activity as well. Recently, Orlando police received many complaints concerning drug activity at a local 7-11. As a result, they beefed up surveillance.
One afternoon, police spotted 65-year-old Daniel Rushing driving his car. The cop who stopped him, 8 year veteran Corporal Riggs-Hopkins, alleges that she observed Rushing commit two traffic infractions. She claims that Rushing was speeding and also, that he failed to come to a complete stop. As she approached the vehicle, Cpl. Riggs-Hopkins alleges that she saw a “white, rocky substance” on the floorboard of the vehicle. She immediately assumed that the substance by the driver’s feet was an illegal controlled substance. Rushing passionately exclaimed to the officer, “It’s glaze! Glaze from a doughnut!!!” He tells the officer that it was Krispy Kreme. Cpl. Riggs-Hopkins and the other law enforcement officers that arrived on the scene after the stop didn’t believe the driver. Instead, they were convinced it was crack cocaine. Then, after some time elapsed, they changed their position, concluding instead that it was Methamphetamine (“crystal meth.”)
To her credit, Corporal Riggs-Hopkins didn’t want to make any definitive conclusions without first using her drug testing kit on the scene. The first test performed yielded a negative result for cocaine. Two more were performed, however, they were done incorrectly. Both tests indicated that the substance was meth. That led to Rushing’s arrest for possession of a controlled substance (meth), a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Rushing was stripped of his liberty and then booked into the local jail. Like all new inmates, he was stripped searched and then spent 10 hours in custody before finally being released after posting a $2,500 bond.
It wasn’t until weeks later before official lab tests performed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement revealed that the substance thought to be meth wasn’t a controlled substance at all. The charge against Rushing was dropped by prosecutors.
While being interviewed about this debacle, Deputy Chief Orlando Rolon (cool coincidence that his name is “Orlando” in light of where he works) revealed that neither Corporal Riggs-Hopkins, nor any other of his law enforcement officers have received any formal training on how to properly use the drug tests, like the one performed on scene. Since this case, all officers were ordered to receive training on how to use the kits.
You know what comes next, “Let’s unleash the lawyers.” Rushing has filed a civil suit alleging negligence against both the city of Orlando and the manufacturer of the drug testing kit. He is alleging that the arrest caused him extreme emotional harm, included humiliation and embarrassment. His mugshot is permanently plastered on the internet.
Having practiced in the criminal arena as a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney for approximately 25 years, I often think I’ve seen and heard it all. Then, a case like this comes to my attention. My first thought was, “This can’t be real.” I was hoping it wasn’t true. Then, after doing my research, I began shaking my head in disgust. This shouldn’t happen.
Imagine any one of your doughnut eating friends and/or family members innocently driving by and then this happens to them. The facts would seem so bizarre to you that you would probably think there was something more to the story. That’s my concern for Mr. Rushing. Every time his name is searched on the internet, someone will erroneously conclude that he was once a “meth head.”
Mr. Rushing can move to have his record expunged. That will result in an order from the judge to the clerk to obliterate his file. Unfortunately, people will still have access to this arrest via the many internet sites that feature the mug shots of the week. Those companies either won’t remove the arrest information or will charge a “processing fee,” sometimes costing hundreds of dollars.
I think the Orlando police department did the right thing by ordering training of all of its officers on how to properly use the drug tests. It’s unfortunate that they failed to do so before test kits were disseminated. I wonder how many other departments around this great land also have no clue on how to administer the tests. I’d like to see all departments immediately set up training.
I’d like you to remember this case when you immediately conclude that someone who has been arrested must be guilty. Often, while you can’t imagine how someone could be innocent under the circumstances, there are often extenuating circumstances. Hopefully, the tragedy that fell upon Mr. Rushing won’t be repeated in the future.