Remember in December when police administered a roadside field drug test on cotton candy but the test came back meth. The lady said it was cotton candy but she was jailed for 4 months before the drug lab confirmed it was cotton candy.
“I had 92 grams of laundry detergent in my door and that’s what I was falsely charged for trafficking of heroin,” said Matthew Crull of Jensen Beach. . .
The 28-year-old said he spent 41 days behind bars. He is now back home with his girlfriend and dogs, but is devastated because he said he missed out on big events, like Christmas last month.
“It just wasn’t a fun day,” he said with tears in his eyes.
On December 5, 2018, deputies were dispatched to a KCF parking lot, along NW Federal Highway in Jensen Beach about a suspicious van.
Before they arrived, paramedics found Crull asleep in his car.
According to the arrest report, O’Leary said he discovered a white, powder-like substance inside his van. He claims after conducting a field test, the powder came back positive for heroin.
But Crull said it was Tide powder laundry detergent.
“He showed me a picture of the field test kit that he supposedly conducted, on his phone. He never actually showed me the real test kit,” Crull said.
In this case, police corruption appears to blame.
Snyder said O’Leary recently made three narcotics arrests and claimed the field tests showed the presence of narcotics.
However, Snyder said the crime lab tests showed no presence of narcotics.
One substance turned out to be a powder used to treat headaches, the other turned out to be a sand-based material, Snyder said.
As a result of the discrepancies, Snyder said the sheriff’s office released nine individuals arrested by O’Leary on narcotics charges.
Snyder said O’Leary made about 80 drug-related arrests during his 11-month probationary period.
Legal substances sometimes create the same colors as illegal drugs. Officers conducting the tests, lab officials acknowledged, misinterpreted results. New technology was available — and clearly needed to protect against wrongful convictions. . .
There’s no way to quantify exactly how many times the field tests were wrong or how many innocent people pleaded guilty based on the inaccurate results, or to assess the damage to their lives.
To be sure, most field tests are accurate and most drug defendants who take plea deals are guilty. But — just as certainly — there have been some number of convictions based on false positives. How many? The department maintains it has never established an error rate. The department destroys samples after pleas are entered and does not track how many of its field test results are re-checked. Drug arrest and lab testing data show the number could be as low as 10 percent.
I corrected that last line: Drug arrest and lab testing data show the number could be as high as 10 percent. “ProPublica’s analysis of the available data — arrests, convictions, plea bargains, rates of field test use — suggests that every year, a minimum of 100,000 people nationwide plead guilty to drug charges that rely on field-test results as evidence. Even a modest error rate, then, could produce hundreds or even thousands of wrongful convictions.
(In Alabama, at present, courts allow someone to be convicted (not just arrested) for possession of marijuana on the mere opinion of the arresting officer, no test are required at all!!)