Flawed drug tests lead to wrongful convictions, incarceration

Imagine you are approached by police and told that you are in possession of cocaine. They claim that they found the illicit drug in your car or your home, so they arrest you and you go to jail where you have to stay until you can pay your bail. In the meantime, lab tests are being conducted on the alleged drug and prosecutors tell you that if you are convicted, you could spend years in jail.

Hundreds of thousands of people arrested for drug possession every year face this very situation. They are told police found drugs and their best option is to accept a plea deal to receive a more lenient sentence. However, there is a serious problem with this situation. According to recent reports in Forbes, in many cases, the substance for which people are arrested is not actually a drug.

The errors are happening due to flawed field-testing of illegal drugs. False positives are easily and frequently generated thanks to factors like contaminated samples, nonspecific tests, testing limitations, exposure to air and human error in conducting the test and interpreting results.

The preliminary field-testing, despite its serious limitations, is widely used in Florida and all across the U.S. to arrest people and file drug charges. In most cases, people will accept a plea deal before a trial, and before far more accurate lab tests can be conducted to confirm or reject the field test findings. Because of this, sources estimate that thousands or even tens of thousands of people are wrongfully convicted of drug offenses.

What readers should take away from this post and the information from the Forbes article is the message that being accused of a crime by police does not mean you are guilty. You would also be wise to remember that you shouldn't believe everything police and prosecutors tell you when you are facing drug possession allegations.

Consulting an attorney right away if you are accused of drug possession will be crucial in order to protect yourself, your freedom and your rights. With legal guidance, you can challenge arrest procedures, test results and other supposed evidence against you to defend yourself.

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