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How unreliable drug field tests cause false arrests

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2022 | Drug Crimes

Police officers tend to get a lot of deference in Virginia courts. Prosecutors and juries tend to presume that their procedures and court testimony are always reliable, honest and accurate. But then stories like the following arise that make the public question whether the police should be treated as infallible — and reminds us why everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Earlier this year, a truck driver falsely accused of transporting methamphetamine in a tanker truck spent nearly six weeks in a Texas jail before prosecutors dropped the charges. Local police arrested the man after testing the fluid in his tank and claiming it tested positive for meth. “This is great policing!” wrote the local police chief in a Facebook post.

Then a DEA crime lab discovered that the field test the arresting officers used was invalid. The tank was full of a mixture of diesel and oil.

Hundreds of arrests based on bad drug tests

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. According to Reason, police across the country have wrongfully arrested hundreds of people based on faulty field tests of suspicious materials that returned false positive results for drugs.

In an Atlanta case, a woman spent four months in jail after getting arrested because an officer claimed the sand filling in her stress ball was cocaine. Another Georgia resident, a college football player, was arrested after police said a substance on his vehicle was cocaine. The “cocaine” in that case turned out to be bird feces.

No laughing matter

As amusing as these stories are, they represent incidents where people were locked up and charged with serious crimes without a shred of legitimate evidence against them. This shows how having an experienced defense attorney can be vital in regaining your freedom after an arrest and defending you against drug charges.

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