COOK COUNTY, Ga. - A Snapchat posted by a Canadian citizen sitting in the backseat of a deputy's vehicle in South Georgia has gone viral.
"Okay, I'm in the back of a police car. I'm in cuffs. Help me!" Emily Nield said appearing to fight back tears at the beginning of her video.
Since her arrest April 2 in Cook County, Nield has appeared on several media outlets including CBC Toronto where she described it as "the most horrendous incident of my life." A deputy had stopped her while driving along Interstate 75.
“I was stopped for speeding but this was not well communicated to me at the time. It was very loud by the side of the highway and I thought she said it was for my brake lights,” Nield wrote FOX 5 News. “When I was in the back of the police car, the arresting deputy clarified that I was initially stopped for speeding.”
When the deputy pulled her over, she asked for the usual documents, but that’s when things got complicated.
“She then proceeded to tell me that my Ontario license was not valid in the state of Georgia and that this offense would cause me to be arrested. She said that normally I would be given the speeding ticket and allowed to go on my way but because I had an Ontario license I could not keep driving,” Nield explained.
Nield then said the deputy asked for further proof as to who she was and questioned where she was headed. Nield said she explained she was driving from Florida to Knoxville, Tennessee where she was a student, having just completed her master's degree in geology.
“She asked about my connection to Knoxville and I said that I use to be a student there. She wanted additional documentation to support the claim that I was Canadian. My passport was in a safe in Knoxville. I had additional documents like another government issued ID with me but it wasn’t good enough. I had copies of my passport and birth certificate on my phone but she was not interested in seeing those. She then said that because of my foreign license that I was under arrest. She reached through the driver’s side window and placed handcuffs on me. I was not read any of my rights,” Nield wrote.
"I'm freaking out and I’m recording myself because I don't know what to do. I got pulled over because my brake light is out. And they found out that I had driver's license, but I didn't have my passport with me, so they said so my license was invalid," Nield said in her Snapchat video. "They're taking away my car. And now I can't drive. And I don't know what to do. I’m in Georgia!"
Nield was booked into the Cook County Jail. She said she never saw a judge or lawyer, but was told she needed to pay her bail amount in cash.
“I told her that I did not have that amount of money on me. She said that I needed to pay the bail or I would stay in jail. I asked her how long would I stay in jail for and she then stated until June 12th, which is when my hearing was set,” Nield explained.
Nield said she was eventually able to use her debit card to post bail. Shortly after, a sergeant informed her she didn’t need to pay bail and that her license was valid. Nield said the sergeant gave her the contact number to Cook County Probate Court to settle the charges.
Nield said as of April 27, the judge dismissed the case and ordered her records pertaining to her arrest to be deleted. She said the county wrote a check reimbursing her for bail.
“Interstate 75 brings approximately one million travelers through Cook County each month. With those travelers, law enforcement regularly encounters individuals who are engaged in crimes such as identity theft and will have on their person a license that is not their('s) or of those stolen or illegally reproduced. That is why we follow Georgia DDS guidelines and request a passport or visa to verify their identity,” Capt. Brent Exum of the Cook County Sheriff's Office was quoted as saying in a release sent May 7 by the county.
The release did dispute claims that Nield would need to be held until her court date and explained why bond would be needed on a traffic ticket.
“On CBC Toronto, it was reported that had Ms. Nield not post a cash bond she would have been in jail until June 12. That is not correct. Georgia law states that any individual who is arrested on a non-warrant is entitled to a first appearance hearing to be advised of their rights and bond within 48 hours of arrest. It is important to note that despite the driver's license issue, Georgia law allows law enforcement officers to require the posting of a cash bond for non-residents even for the offense of speeding because their driver's license cannot be displayed in lieu of bail,” the release stated.
“After reviewing the facts of the case and in consultation with the arresting agency, I chose not to prosecute the case and entered a nolle prosequi. The probate court worked with Ms. Nield's attorney to have her record restricted and sealed. The confusion that arose, in this case, was the fact Ms. Nield stated she lived in Tennessee. Non-permanent residents in the United States legally are permitted to get a Tennessee driver's license or ID card that expires at the end of their visa,” Cook County Solicitor Matthey Bennett was quoted as saying in the released.
"The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution affords due process to non-citizens just as it does to our own citizens. Because of this, Ms. Nield was afforded the same rights as an American citizen and she had the opportunity to have the facts of her case heard in a court of law. In this case, the justice system worked and for that, everyone should be thankful," Judge Chase Daughtrey added to the released.