Arrested After Police Field Drug Test? Fight Back: These Things Are Notoriously Wrong
Here’s what happens. You’re driving along, minding your own business, when you see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror and pull over. The police officer saunters up to your window. You ask what’s going on: why did he stop you?
Next thing you know, he’s checking out stuff in your car and he’s using a little “field test kit” on stuff he’s found there.
And you’re arrested on a drug charge. It’s a felony, which means jail time.
Problem is, that test was false. It’s a field testing kit known to be unreliable. And the officer probably knew that it was untrustworthy when he used it and when he cuffed you.
Think this is fiction? Well, here are three stories that made the national news that dovetail with this hypothetical (and there are literally thousands more):
1. Drywall Dust Tests False Positive in Police Field Test
Over in Florida, a 57-year-old handyman was pulled over one night last March by the local police. They searched his vehicle and found white powder. He explained it was drywall dust – stuff that came from his job.
They tested it with their police field test kit and voila, it shows as crack cocaine. So, the handyman is arrested on a drug charge.
He’s facing a felony possession charge and because he couldn’t make bail he sat in jail from March until May. What happened in May? Someone at the Florida Crime Lab finally got around to his case and tested the white powder – and confirmed his story that it was indeed drywall dust.
So the prosecution had no case and he was released. Except he lost two months of his life on a false police field test kit ….
For details on the Florida handyman’s story, check out the CNN coverage at “Man spends three months in jail after false positive on police drug test.”
2. Mom’s Powder in Car Tests False Positive in Police Field Test
Over in Harris County, a worried mother from Louisiana had taken her son to a Houston doctor for help in treating his cerebral palsy. She was driving to grab them some dinner and bring it back to their hotel when she was pulled over by the local police.
The officer saw some white powder in her car (not sure what it was – baby powder, baking soda, detergent? Moms tend to have lots of white powdery stuff in their lives). She told the police she had no drugs, she didn’t do drugs – she was a mom on a mission to help her sick son.
Too bad. They pull out their field test kit and the white powder is a false-positive for cocaine. So the mother is arrested on a felony drug charge.
It gets worse. Her public defender encourages her to take a plea deal just so she can get free and back to her sick son. The plea deal was 45 days in the local jail. The sentence could be two years behind bars.
So, she opts for the jail time plea deal because that’s what moms do. She ended up serving 21days in jail. And then she went home to discover she had lost her job.
Three years later, she gets a letter from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office letting her know that she had been convicted in error. That’s a big oops, right?
So now, she is suing the City of Houston, Harris County, the prosecutor on her case, and the two police officers involved in the false field testing for $2,500,000.00.
For more on Amy Albritton’s wrongful conviction story, read the news coverage in the New York Times article, “How a $2 Roadside Drug Test Sends Innocent People to Jail.”
3. Kitty Litter in Car Tests False Positive in Police Field Test
Also in Houston, a man’s life was in tatters after he was the victim of another false positive on a police officer’s field drug test. After being pulled over failing to signal when making a turn, Ross Lebeau had his car searched by the county sheriff’s deputies, where they discovered a black sock filled with kitty litter.
It was a hack his father used to keep the windows from fogging up. When Lebeau bought the car from his dad, he didn’t bother tossing it out.
So, the deputies tested the kitty litter with one of their field test kits. Sure enough, a false positive for cocaine and the young man is arrested on a felony drug possession charge.
His reputation is ruined, he loses work and his parents kick him out of their home because it’s been labelled a “meth lab” in the neighborhood.
All over KITTY LITTER. Read the details of this fiasco in the Houston Press coverage, “How Harris County Deputies Mistook a Sock Full of Cat Litter for a Half Pound of Meth.”
My Own Test of the Police Field Test Kits: Watch the Video
These police field test kits are infamous for not being trustworthy. Everyone in the criminal justice system is aware of how they can give a false positive. The police officers and sheriff’s deputies out patrolling the streets who use these field tests do so with the knowledge that they aren’t to be trusted.
Just how bad are they? Are these news stories just a fluke? Well, I did my own testing using a known police field test last year. For that earlier blog post, go here.
Here’s my video – and sure enough, it gave a false positive. Watch for yourself:
Police and Prosecutors Are Still Using These Field Test Kits for Arrests
Prosecutors and police are still fine with arrests being made based upon field drug test results. Even if everyone knows that these field test kits are highly likely to give a false positive for drugs.
Remember the drywall dust guy over in Florida (our earlier first example)? Well, the local police and the state department both refused to disrespect that field test kit even after it was proven to have given a false positive. See, “FDLE stands by test results after field kit mistakes drywall dust for cocaine.”
It’s so bad that it has made the national spotlight for the farce that it is. Earlier this month, on the comedy show Full Frontal, comedienne Samantha Bee had the following skit based in part on Mr. Lebeau’s kitty litter story, which we share here from YouTube:
You Have to Fight Back After a False Field Drug Test Arrest in Texas
Here’s the bottom line. Here in Dallas and the rest of Texas, if you are pulled over by the police and they use a field test kit on something they’ve found in your car (or on you), then your arrest may be based upon a false test result.
You know it. But the police and the prosecutors aren’t going to listen to you. They’re going to arrest you anyway.
The sad truth is that false field drug tests will be respected until some other test result is put into evidence that shows “no controlled substance found.” Maybe that is the local county crime lab results.
Maybe it’s your defense attorney’s habeas corpus writ.
Whatever the case – you have to fight this right now because it’s happening all over the State of Texas.
What happens if you cannot afford a lawyer? Then you need to know about this reality so you can fight back with your public defender.
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