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Cheap police drug-testing kits continue to cause serious problems

Laboratory testing has become very sophisticated in recent decades. Forensic science has managed to convict individuals based on DNA evidence and clear wrongfully convicted individuals in the same manner. In a lab environment, drug testing is usually also accurate and reliable.

Drug testing "in the field," however, is an entirely different matter. Police departments continue to supply officers with cheap testing kits that are notorious for their inaccuracy and unreliability. This has led to a number of high-profile mistakes, the consequences of which continue for suspects long after the charges have been dropped.

One of the most recent cases occurred in Harris County, Texas. A 24-year-old driver was pulled over for making a right turn without signaling. When the officer spotted a sock filled with "small clear, blue and gold colored nuggets," he assumed he had caught a drug kingpin. A field drug test seemed to confirm his suspicion that the young man had been carrying about a half-pound of methamphetamine.

What the man was actually transporting was kitty litter. The driver kept it in a sock in his car as a means of absorbing moisture in the air and keeping his windows from fogging up in the winter. This is a fairly well-known trick.

Police did not buy the man's explanation, and he spent three days in jail before he could post bond at $50,000. In the meantime, police were publicly congratulating themselves for such a momentous drug bust.

The mistake was eventually cleared up and the young man was released. But he has received no apology and has seemingly not been compensated in any other way. He says he is still facing significant damage to his reputation. He wants to clear his good name, and he wants police to stop using these cheap, unreliable drug testing kits.

If you have been arrested for or charged with drug crimes (either accurately or erroneously), please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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Robert D. DiDio
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