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Criminal defense: Inaccurate tests lead to criminal charges

The desire to remove illegal drugs from the streets is understandable, and the intent may even be admirable. However, police officers in Missouri and other areas of the country could potentially be putting innocent people behind bars in the zealousness. A wrongful arrest in another state, in which doughnut glaze tested as methamphetamine when police used an inexpensive field test, could potentially help those facing similar charges in other areas of the country with their criminal defense as the case has people questioning the accuracy of the tests officers use in the field.

Many police departments use a general screening kit for drugs made by a company called The Safariland Group. The tests are inexpensive; a box of 10 can be bought for just $18. While thousands of people are sent to jail based on the tests, reports indicate that many of the results are false positives.

In some versions of the tests, a tube contains a substance that turns blue if it is exposed to cocaine. However, over 80 other substances, including common household cleaners and some acne medications, can result in a false positive. Other tests involve three tubes that must be broken in a specific order; failure to follow the proper order can also result in a false positive.

Other factors can also play a role in the performance of field tests. For example, extreme temperatures can impact results. Some reports claim that the kits have ambiguous directions, making it difficult for officers to correctly administer them and interpret the results.

Unfortunately, the man who was arrested for having doughnut glaze in his car is not the first person who has been wrongly accused and likely will not be the last. While he was released shortly after his arrest and has recently won a civil lawsuit against the police department because of its continued use of tests with known issues with accuracy, people across the country could ultimately be convicted of a crime they did not commit. A criminal defense attorney with experience representing people in Missouri facing drug charges can examine any tests administered to help determine whether a false positive may have played a role in an arrest.

Source: NPR, "Florida Man Awarded $37,500 After Cops Mistake Glazed Doughnut Crumbs For Meth," Laurel Wamsley, Oct. 16, 2017

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