Green Tongues and Forked Tongues

In Saturday’s post on the recent DUI updates, I wrote:

And assurances from the police that they’ll only go after impaired folks requires a lot of skepticism given the history of DUI enforcement.

I wanted to elaborate on this a bit, but didn’t want to go off on any other tangents in that post. So I’ll go off on that tangent here. And a recent case from Kent is a good starting point:

Mike Simmons, 31, said Tuesday he was put in jail for 13 hours. Now with towing and lawyer fees, he said he’s out $5,000 and he’s not allowed to drive while he’s out on bail.

All for something he said he didn’t do.

“As soon as the officer came to the vehicle, he asked me to stick out my tongue,” said Simmons.

Simmons thought it was an unusual request but he soon found out he was pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence.

Simmons said the officer told him there was a green film on his tongue. The unidentified police officer apparently felt that is a telltale sign that someone has been smoking marijuana.

Simmons admitted he had smoked pot three days earlier, but says when he was pulled over he was on a lunch break from work and was stone-cold sober.

We’ll find out more about this specific case as it unfolds, but if Simmons’ recounting of the arrest is accurate, it wouldn’t be the first time an officer has used something ridiculous or imaginary to imply impairment. In this case from Ocean Shores in November, an officer claimed an elderly medical marijuana patient was impaired because – among other things – she was unable to stand on one leg.

To clarify a point that should be obvious to most people, your tongue doesn’t turn green when you smoke pot. So if that’s the evidence that this officer used to demonstrate impairment, and Simmons doesn’t win a lawsuit against the city of Kent as a result of that, then the folks who say that impairment is required to end up in his situation aren’t correct. Because if there are no repercussions for when a police officer does something wrong, it doesn’t matter what the law actually says.

We’ve continually heard from members of law enforcement and others that impairment is required in order to end up in Simmons’ situation. But it’s not hard for an officer to just say, “your eyes are bloodshot!” and use that as a justification to demand a blood draw. These reassurances go beyond being wishful thinking that their fellow police officers won’t abuse their power. They’re close to being outright lies.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The way to stop arbitrary arrests is by taking any resulting legal judgments out of the arresting officer’s pay.

  2. 4

    Deathfrogg spews:

    Cops outright LIE all the time. They lie in open court, they lie in nearly every arrest report they make, and they lie every time they speak to the press. Ask any Lawyer, and they’ll tell you that cops are the least credible witnesses in any court proceeding.

  3. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    It happens all too often, sadly. As one officer once told me, “I can ALWAYS find probable cause” if he wants to stop and search someone – or in this case, if he just wants to make random stops and haul people in for drug testing.

  4. 6

    Dr. Hilarius spews:

    The “green tongue” nonsense appears periodically. It’s used by some DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) officers despite the fact that there is no factual basis for it. Strangely. the DRE student manual now in use says a green tongue is an indicator while the DRE instructor manual says there are no studies to support it. Go figure.

    The green tongue is not much different from a lot of so-called forensic science, it’s taught and repeated despite having no factual basis.

  5. 7

    Steve spews:

    Last summer I was pulled over and was given the green tongue test. He said I had recently been smoking pot because my tongue was green. My tongue was only coated because I had been very ill for a long time. He then gave me an eye test using a pen, moving it side to side and up and down as my head remained still. He said I failed that one as well because my eyes were “flitting”. But he was holding the pen so close that I saw two of them. Then he had me estimate when 30 seconds had passed. I called it at 26 seconds. The next thing I knew I was in handcuffs.

    I explained where I was going and he let me go but it was a close call. It left me wondering where they came up with these tests that they’re using.

  6. 8

    Dr. Hilarius spews:

    Steve, the eye test is called the HGN, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. It is a real test and been found to be valid for the detection of alcohol consumption. But marijuana does not induce HGN at all according to Washington State Patrol training manuals. Estimating 30 seconds is supposed to be done as part of the Rhomberg balance test (subject puts feet together, eyes closed, head tilted back, arms down at sides) where cop looks for the dreaded “circular” swaying, foot movement or arms raised for balance. This test has never been validated for field sobriety testing but is still widely used. You’re very lucky cop let you go. Even if a blood test came up negative you still might end up in court, spending money on an attorney to get it dismissed.