You’re having a great time. Out with friends for some innocent fun, maybe dinner and a movie before wrapping up the evening with drinks at a local pub. You’re feeling pretty satisfied on your drive home until you see the red and blue flashing lights. Suddenly, your perfect night devolves into a nightmare ending with you behind bars. The worst part? You’re not even sure how you got there.
Sounds impossible right? Maybe a scene from the newest box office thriller but certainly not a real-life possibility. Tell that to Justin, James and the Jones family (names changed to protect their privacy). Faulty assumptions and drug testing led to legal nightmares for these people whose stories should serve as a cautionary tale.
Real life stories of wrongful convictions based on faulty results
In 2007, Justin, the drummer in a band known as the Germs, was arrested and charged with possession of GHB on a routine traffic stop in California. Officers identified a bottle of “yellowish goop” as GHB, also known as “the date rape drug.” Lab testing later supported Justin’s story that the bottle was actually an all-natural soap.
Six years later, a similar scenario played out in Pennsylvania. James was charged with possession and conspiring to distribute cocaine when Pennsylvania State Troopers pulled over the rental car he was riding in. He spent a month in jail until his bail was reduced from $500,000 to $25,000. Five days after posting bail, lab tests proved that the “brick-size packages” of white powder were not cocaine but homemade soap.
Sheriff’s deputies in Leawood, Kansas awakened husband and wife Jones to search their home for marijuana plants based on “plant material” found in their garbage. Wife Jones and the couple’s two children (a 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son) were confined to the living room sofa while Husband Jones was forced to the floor at gunpoint. Two and a half hours later, the “plant material” from the kitchen garbage was found to be loose-leaf tea and not the marijuana officers had thought.
False positives have extremely negative consequences
Imagine the fall out for these people, the embarrassment, the trauma, and the financial losses. Field testing for illegal drugs is not as reliable as authorities would like you to believe. From human error to unfavorable weather conditions to the non-specific nature of the actual tests, there is a strong likelihood of a false positive on some of the most basic plants and substances from soap to cooking herbs.
While not generally admissible in court, the field tests have done their fair share of damage. Approximately 90 percent of these drug cases end in plea deals because individuals fear the daunting legal system and the possible repercussions of losing in court even if they are innocent. Some people accept plea deals before the actual lab results are received by the court and by then it’s too late.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced attorney to help you through the legal process. The Law Office of Shawn C. Brown, PC is prepared to help individuals finding themselves dealing with drug possession charges.