Bad drug-testing kits lead to wrongful arrest & other problems

America’s war on drugs has been a long, expensive battle with uncertain victories. And while there have been efforts to reform the nation’s drug laws and sentencing guidelines, anyone convicted of drug crimes still faces a potentially harsh sentence.

If law enforcement agencies and courts are going to continue this heavy-handed approach to fighting drug use, they need to at least make efforts to ensure that they are not falsely charging innocent people. Unfortunately, the drug testing kits used by many police officers “in the field” are unreliable and inaccurate.

Many law enforcement agencies use inexpensive testing kits to determine whether a given substance is actually an illicit drug or just looks like an illicit drug. But these testing kits are notorious for producing false positives, resulting in the arrest of innocent citizens.

Take an example from late 2016. In Harris County, Texas, a 24-year-old man was pulled over in a routine traffic stop. In his car, in plain view, was a sock filled with kitty litter. The man used it to absorb moisture in the air and keep his windows from fogging up in winter weather.

The officer who pulled him over, however, suspected that the kitty litter was actually a large quantity of methamphetamine. The cheap testing kit erroneously confirmed his suspicion, and the man was arrested and jailed for three days. It took a meeting with an attorney and posting expensive bond before the man could clear up the mistake. And police have not (and seemingly will not) apologize for their very serious error.

There is no easy or quick solution to America’s drug problem. Although it cannot be solved in the criminal justice system alone, the criminal justice system at least needs to take accountability when major errors (caused by faulty equipment) result in wrongful arrest, and in some cases, wrongful conviction.

If you’ve been arrested on drug charges here in Louisiana, please seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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