Getting stopped by police can be a stressful event, even when you have absolutely no reason to worry. You have not committed a crime and you were going the speed limit. Yet, when those flashing lights appear in your rear view mirror your heart rate may pick up.
Generally, these stops end up being pretty quick and harmless. Perhaps your license plate needs to be renewed or a tail light was out. In these situations, a brief discussion is all that may occur. Unfortunately, in other situations, a misunderstanding or faulty field test could lead to serious problems.
When a simple stop results in drug charges
Serious problems can take many forms. One of the more common involves allegations of drug crimes. A recent piece by Forbes delved into this issue, noting a false positive field test for the presence of drugs that would support such charges is not uncommon. Some examples included:
- Soap. There were many examples included where police officers mistook simple soap for illegal narcotics. In one story, a man was accused of having a bottle of a date rape drug, which turned out to be exactly what the label on the bottle claimed: a natural, liquid soap. In a second, a man with homemade bars of soap was accused of having bricks of cocaine. Each faced charges, and the second man spent months in jail while police looked into the actual composition of the supposed "cocaine". The man had to fight for the truth to be found, all while possibly being pushed to take a plea deal.
- Crumbs. Another case involved a woman who was accused of possessing crack cocaine based on the presence of a crumb on the floor of her car. Like many other cases involving allegations of drug possession, the woman accepted a plea deal instead of fighting the charges. She chose not to fight because the police argued that they had a solid case against her and that if she lost she would face a much longer prison sentence. After further testing, the crumb was discovered to not be an illegal substance. The woman was eventually exonerated.
Even when these false claims of drug possession end up getting resolved, the victims who are accused of these crimes have often dealt with serious repercussions, including jail time. The example of the woman involving the plea deal is not uncommon. The threat of jail time is often used to encourage a plea deal, even when the person facing the charges is innocent.
Unfortunately, it may not always be explained that even a smaller deal can have long lasting repercussions. The presence of a conviction on your record can make it more difficult to get employment, housing and even to pursue scholarship opportunities. As a result, it is wise often to consider your defenses and fight the charges.