When you get pulled over for a traffic stop, the officer leans into your open window and says, “What’s that on your floor?” Five minutes later, you’re being arrested because the drug testing kit the police used identified something on your floor — maybe powdered sugar from your last doughnut run — as meth or cocaine.
Think it’s implausible? It’s not. Police departments across the nation have been using flawed testing kits for decades — and people are ending up behind bars because of them. Just recently, five new convictions from 2017 that involved such drug testing kits were overturned and the defendants exonerated.
Like so many other defendants in their position before them, all five defendants had pleaded guilty to the drug charges. Although innocent, they likely made the choice to accept a criminal sentence rather than sit behind bars for an indefinite period while they tried to prove their innocence. In some cases, they may have simply been afraid that going to trial would — if they lost — subject them to a “trial tax” that would saddle them with longer sentences. Taking a plea allows many defendants charged with low-level drug crimes to get out of jail with nothing more than community service. However, the criminal record they carry may haunt them forever.
There have been hundreds of wrongful arrests due to inaccurate drug tests all over the nation, even though the tests are so notoriously unreliable that most courts won’t permit them to be used as evidence. That doesn’t always stop police from using them, however, as probable cause for an arrest. This often sets into motion a cascade of events that leave defendants with unenviable choices.
If you’ve been arrested after the results of a roadside drug test indicated that you were in possession of drugs, fight back. An experienced defense attorney can help.