DRE drug scandal: Civil lawsuit against state seeks millions in damages

The DRE scandal resulted in no criminal charges, but now some of the program's subjects are seeking substantial civil compensation.
The DRE scandal resulted in no criminal charges, but now some of the program's subjects are seeking substantial civil compensation.

Today, St. Paul attorney Nathan Hansen and New Jersey attorney Alan Milstein filed a civil lawsuit against the state of Minnesota, State Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies seeking millions of dollars in damages for subjects who participated in the scandalized Drug Recognition Expert program.

SEE ALSO: The City Pages' DRE scandal series

"The two-count Complaint alleges that these defendants designed and implemented a pernicious human research experiment exposing young people from minority and/or disadvantaged backgrounds to various illegal drugs in an effort use these individuals as human guinea pigs for the benefit of law enforcement," a press release summarizing the lawsuit says.

"The experiment, of course, had no scientific or forensic validity, and could never have been approved as competent human research," the release continues. "But not only was the experiment unethical by design, the defendants conducted their research without the informed consent of the human subjects, thus violating the most essential ethical requirements which form the basis of our laws and regulations governing human subject research."

Here's an excerpt from the actual lawsuit. To read the whole thing, click here:

10. The DRE Program was essentially an unethical clinical trial whereby armed police officers provided vulnerable members of the public with substantial quantities of marijuana (presumably obtained from police evidence in other cases), encouraged them to get high, observed them, and then abandoned them while they were still high.

11. This Program purportedly existed for the purpose of allowing law enforcement to understand what individuals look and act like while high.

12. In actuality, the parties that designed and ran the Program wished to target members of Occupy Minneapolis, members of the homeless population, and other vulnerable members of the population and see what quantity of drugs their bodies could tolerate.

13. Indeed, officers running the Program were instructed to specifically target Occupy Minneapolis protesters exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and peaceable assembly, and in fact targeted such individuals.

14. Officers running the Program were also instructed to specifically target vulnerable members of the population, including homeless individuals and individuals addicted to illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and in fact targeted such individuals...

17. Additionally, the parties that designed and ran the Program authorized providing, and actually provided, cash or other consideration (such as food, cigarettes, and even illegal drugs to take home) to members of the public in exchange for participation, and sometimes intimated to the "volunteers" that they would be arrested if they did not participate.

18. The Plaintiffs and other "participants" were not provided with an informed consent form, nor could any consent have ever been truly voluntary...

21. The Belmont Report, issued in 1979 by the National Commission for the Protection of Research Subjects in Biomedical and Behavioral Research, sets forth three principles to guide human subject research. It provides that, for human subject research to be ethical, the research must be designed in accordance with "the ethical principles of Respect for Persons, Beneficence and Justice." See http://ohsr.od.nih.gov/guidelines/ (last visited December 16, 2012).

22. The DRE Program was contrary to the principle of Respect for Persons because it treated the human subjects as guinea pigs, if not worse.

23. The experiment was contrary to the principle of Beneficence because the risk of injury to human subjects who would be given large quantities of marijuana, observed, and then dropped off in the middle of a major metropolitan area while still in a highly altered state was more than minimal and was outweighed by any possible benefits.

24. The experiment was contrary to the principle of Justice because the experiment exclusively targeted those exercising their free speech rights, the economically disadvantaged, and other vulnerable members of the population.

25. In 1991, federal regulations governing human subject research were integrated into the "Common Rule," the most familiar incarnation of which is the Department of Heath and Human Services regulations found at 45 C.F.R. § 46.101, et seq. These federal regulations, among other things, detail the conditions required for obtaining informed consent and what information must be provided under those conditions, restrict experiments to those in which risks are minimized, require the equitable selection of research subjects, and establish the requirement of institutional review boards.

26. The experiment was contrary to the requirements of the Common Rule in virtually every respect.

In the lawsuit, Hansen and Milstein demand a jury trial and specify they're seeking more than $1,000,000 in damages for each of the two counts. The plaintiffs are Forest Olivier, Michael Bounds, Wia Day, Adam Laguna, Daniel Bell and Zachary Lorenz.

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