DEA Forgets College Student in Cell for Days Without Food, Water: Drinks Urine to Survive

Friday, May 18, 2012

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A California college student was left in a small holding cell by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for five days without food, water, or a toilet. He believes that the DEA forgot about him. He was taken by agents during a late April 2012 drug raid on his friend's house in which nine people were arrested.

The engineering student at the University of California, San Diego, was not arrested or charged with anything.

Student Left to Drink His Own Urine After Being Abandoned by the DEA.

According to a law enforcement official who has reviewed this case, the student was never arrested, was not going to be charged with a crime and should have been released.

Instead, he was left handcuffed and placed back in a 5-by-10-foot cell, where he remained for several days with no food or water. The student says that he yelled and tried shoving his clothes under the door so that someone would realize that he was there. Eventually, he said he had to drink his own urine after being without water. He suffered from dehydration and allegedly began to hallucinate.

Methamphetamine Accidentally Left in Student's Holding Cell by the DEA.

The abandoned student reportedly stated that he broke his own glasses and began carving "Sorry Mom" into his arm but stopped after the "S." Additionally, he ingested a white powder DEA agents said was accidentally left in the cell and was later identified as methamphetamine.

Numerous media accounts of this event have been published including by the Associated Press and Delaware Online. An apology was issued by the DEA.

When he was eventually found, paramedics took him to a hospital. He spent three days in intensive care and five days total at the hospital before leaving.

DEA Issues Apology to the Student.

The DEA has acknowledged that the student was accidentally left in the cell and has issued an apology. The agency is investigating how this incident happened.

Student Seeks Up to $20 Million in Compensation.

The student's attorney has sent a five page demand letter to the DEA's general counsel in Washington D.C., which calls the student's treatment "torture." The letter also requests that all federal agencies preserve any evidence related to the case, including video, interview notes and written reports.

The student is seeking up to $20 million in compensation for the incident.

Perseverance of Engineering Students.

I believe this incident, which is horrendous and never should have happened illustrates the perseverance of engineering students. Not to make light of the situation, Survivorman could not have done better. One wonders how such an event could happen in our country.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling DEA cases. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse action by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at

Sources Include:

Associated Press. "Calif. Man Forgotten in Cell Says He Drank Urine." Delaware Online. (May 2, 2012). From

Caldwell, Alicia. "DEA Apologizes to College Student Left in Cell." Delaware Online. (May 2, 2012). From

Gastaldo, Evann. "Student Forgotten in DEA Cell Wants $20M." Newser. (May 3, 2012). From

McDonald, Jeff. "Abandoned DEA detainee seeks $20 million." UT San Diego. (May 2, 2012). From

About the Author:  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Tag words: Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, drug raid, holding cell


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