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Roadside Drug ID Tests Producing False Positives

Dec. 7, 2016

Truckers in Florida may expect normal driving hazards like fog and wet roads, but law enforcement officers and their roadside drug test kits have created a new problem. Some types of tests have gained a bad reputation for inaccuracy because of false positives. Substances like baking soda, tortilla flour and candy have been erroneously identified as cocaine or methamphetamine during traffic stops.

A false positive during a roadside inspection caused a pair of truckers to be jailed for two months. They had been stopped for a routine inspection when authorities chose to test a substance that they were told was baking soda. Multiple applications of the test produced a positive reading for cocaine. They were not released from jail until additional laboratory tests confirmed that the substance in question was not illegal. The truckers then faced the task of getting their vehicle out of impound.

Reportedly, some of the test kits used by law enforcement cost as little as $2 each. An analysis conducted by the Department of Law Enforcement Lab Systems in Florida examined substances that field tests had labeled as methamphetamine. In a lab setting, 21 percent of the samples tested negative for a controlled substance.

A person accused of possessing drugs could ask an attorney to prepare a defense against any potential charges. A lawyer might help the client decide how to enter a plea. Evidence cited against the client could come under the attorney’s scrutiny. The validity of field tests could be questioned, which might result in a case dismissal. Otherwise, an attorney could negotiate with a prosecutor and attempt to gain a lenient sentence. Depending on the circumstances, a plea deal might reduce felony charges to misdemeanors.