The issue of false positives with field drug test kits

The issue of false positives with field drug test kits

| Jul 20, 2020 | Firm News

An individual arrested for drug possession in Arizona can face charges when police officers believe that he or she has physical or constructive possession of an illegal substance. If the police discover white powder on someone’s person, the powder may undergo a drug test. When the powder turns out to be cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or another type of controlled substance, the possession charges may have merit.

What happens when the drug tests are faulty? During recent cases in Oregon and Nevada, the public learned that faulty drug tests could still lead to convictions. In both states, five cases were overturned due to field drug tests delivering false positives.

Field drug tests involve adding a small amount of a suspected drug to a kit. When the substance changes color, police have probable cause to make an arrest. The kits, however, do not provide reliable determinations about the type of substance tested. A comprehensive lab test can reveal what the powder is.

Many people who get arrested plead guilty and face convictions with jail time due to a field drug test. Unfortunately, the guilty pleas can occur based on arrests rooted in false positives.

The accused might not be entirely aware of his or her rights or fully understand the validity of the evidence. Someone overwhelmed by the criminal proceedings may enter a plea to avoid a lengthier prison sentence. Unfortunately, the person might not realize that the charges have no merit without a full lab test.

A criminal defense attorney may review and possibly challenge the evidence gathered to charge someone with a crime. The attorney might also examine whether law enforcement legally obtained the evidence. For someone who has received a conviction, an attorney may work to overturn a conviction on appeal. Providing new, compelling evidence during the appeal proceedings might lead to such a result.