The handy drug test kits law enforcement agencies across the country use to detect the presence of drugs have led to many wrongful convictions.
A chemical mixture first conceived in the 1970’s to identify the presence of cocaine, evolved into a number of mobile test kits routinely used by law enforcement today to test for a variety of illegal drugs, with questionable results.
An investigation conducted by ProPublica found that at least one brand of the kits were central to the wrongful conviction of scores of people in Houston. Apparently, the problem lies in false positives and the frequent misinterpretations of the results by officers.
The maker of the brand in question, who is also the pioneer of the first field test kits of the 70’s, acknowledges the limitations of the test. He believes results should be confirmed in a lab, however, dozens of jurisdictions across the country allow guilty pleas based on field tests alone.
The results of the investigation are certainly cause for law enforcement across the country to re-consider the wisdom of relying upon the field tests — including police, prosecutors, and judges. Until that time, those accused of drug possession based on a field test kit should think twice before taking a plea deal and consider hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to challenge the results.