Georgia

She was jailed for not having a valid license. Turns out she was just Canadian

A Canadian woman was jailed in Georgia after an officer suspected she was driving without a valid license. Her Canadian license was valid in the United States. She recorded a Snapchat video while handcuffed from the back of a squad car.
A Canadian woman was jailed in Georgia after an officer suspected she was driving without a valid license. Her Canadian license was valid in the United States. She recorded a Snapchat video while handcuffed from the back of a squad car. CBC Video Screenshot/Emily Neild

Emily Nield doesn't deny that she was speeding.

The 27-year-old Canadian woman was going a little too fast on the highway from Florida back to Tennessee, where she had recently completed a master's degree in geology, CBC News reported. "I was in the wrong there," she told Global News.

So when a Cook County, Georgia, deputy pulled her over for speeding on April 2 and asked her to produce her license and identification, she handed the documents over. But she told CBC News what happened next was "the most horrendous incident of my life."

Nield told WALB the deputy kept telling her that her Ontario license was not valid in the state of Georgia. "I was confused. It was so loud at the side of the highway I thought I had misheard her," Emily told the station.

"At that point, she wanted to make sure that I was indeed a Canadian citizen, so she asked for additional documentation. I do not carry my passport on me during the day ... But I do have copies of it on my phone. I have a copy of my birth certificate, a copy of my Nexus card, a copy of my passport and I offered to show her all those. At that point, she said only the original would do," Nield told Global News.

The deputy arrested her and charged her with speeding and driving without a license, according to WXIA. She recorded a teary Snapchat video from the backseat of the squad car.

Canadian driver's licenses are valid in Georgia for business and travel, though officers can ask for proof if it is available, according to the Georgia Department of Driver's Services.

"I'm in cuffs. Help me! I don't want to go to jail," she says in the video. "Now I can't drive and I don't know what to do, I'm in Georgia!" she says.

She was taken to the Cook County Jail and ordered to pay $778 in bond to get her car back, according to the BBC.

"They kept saying 'You're now in the system. Any crime that's going to be committed, your fingerprints are going to be searched,'" Nield told CBC News. "I never committed a crime."

Nield told WXIA the ordeal scared her. "I've seen so many horror stories of arrests gone astray and I did not want to become one of those stories," she told the station.

Three days after her arrest, all the charges were dropped, according to the BBC.

Cook County Solicitor Matthew Bennett told WALB the confusion came after Nield told the deputy she lived in Tennessee. If she were a long-term resident of that state, she would have needed to apply for an ID card or driver's license for the length of her visa, Bennett told the station.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office also released a statement saying that "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 theirs or of those stolen or illegally reproduced," according to WXIA.

Nield told WALB once things were sorted out, everything went smoothly.

"The Cook County judge and the probate court were amazing. Everyone I dealt with in Georgia was amazing in helping this case be dismissed and I cannot thank them enough," she told the station.

She still wants one thing, however: an apology from the deputy who arrested her.

"At least with the officer who arrested me, I would love to see a formal reprimand. That way she can learn that this is not right - an apology is what I would love the most," she told CBC.

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