By on July 7, 2016

police stop roadside

Thousands of innocent Americans are going to jail due to faulty science and prosecutors who take the results of cheap (and error-prone) roadside drug testing equipment as gospel.

That’s the finding of a damning report published in the New York Times with the help of non-profit investigative journalism body ProPublica.

The Nixon-era chemical-testing technology used by police officers to analyze suspicious substances found in vehicles was never supposed to be the last word on a suspect’s guilt or innocence, but that’s what’s happening across the U.S. Backed into a corner, citizens faced with a “positive” test often accept a plea deal for a reduced sentence to get the nightmare over with faster.

Field test kits placed as standard equipment in the trunk of police cruisers cost as little as $2 apiece, and are designed to identify the presence of drugs by having a vial of chemical solution turn a different color when exposed to certain illicit substances. Some tests use one vial, others three.

The problem is, dozens of other chemicals — and even temperature — can trick the test into declaring a false positive. In some cases, officers simply misread the results. Once an unofficial roadside declaration of “guilty” is made, it’s hard to get off the ensuing legal ride. Often, a plea deal for a reduced sentence seems like the only way.

It’s well-known that the tests’ accuracy is limited. The Times report points to a study conducted by Las Vegas authorities, where three year’s worth of positive cocaine tests were re-analyzed. One-third (33 percent) of the tests were false positives. In Florida, data obtained from state law enforcement showed 21 percent of evidence labelled as methamphetamine based on roadside tests wasn’t meth at all. Half of the positive test results were false positives, meaning no drugs were actually found.

When cheap, disposable field test kits started finding their way into police cruiser trunks in the early 1970s, the FBI warned against taking the test results on face value. The U.S. Department of Justice felt the same way, ruling in 1978 that roadside field tests results couldn’t be the sole evidence in a drug case. In a trial, a proper lab, using exact methods, needs to provide the definitive proof.

Most cases don’t reach the trail phase, and the report showed that prosecutors in nine out of 10 major urban centers accept a guilty plea based on roadside test results. It also showed that upwards of 90 percent of felony drug convictions stem from plea deals reached before mandatory laboratory testing occurred.

Clearly, there’s a lot of work needed to reform the practices of the legal system, just as there’s a pressing need to develop better drug testing equipment to protect innocent people’s freedom and livelihoods.

These gears move slowly. When the journalists working on the report examined the products from the nine companies that make and distribute the field kits, three still failed to print warnings issued by the Justice Department 16 years ago. The warnings display the need for officer training and describe the legal weight of test results. (One of the remaining three companies began printing warnings after learning about the looming news story.)

Faulty drug tests aren’t the only thing to worry about when behind the wheel. A driver’s financial assets can be seized with the swipe of a card if they’re suspected of being involved in a crime, even without a criminal charge.

[Image: Richard Bauer/Flickr]

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104 Comments on “Roadside Drug Testing: Faulty, Misunderstood, Antiquated, and as Popular as Ever...”


  • avatar

    If the police pull you over, more likely than not, you did something to be suspected.

    While you can make an argument that ticket quotas exist, you can’t deny that many people who get pulled over have done something wrong and by their own actions (or prior actions) cause the situation to escalate.

    There are now at least 3 videos of people being shot by cops on Facebook/Youtube/Twitter and in just about every single case, they “did something” to be suspected and then caused the situation to escalate.

    Here’s my question: WHY DON’T PEOPLE SIMPLY OBEY THE LAW?

    Or better yet: if you are going to break the law, why do it in a way that is OBVIOUS or causes you to be suspected sooner?

    If you are suspected: JUST COMPLY.

    Yes sir…no sir. Should be the first and last words out of your mouth.

    I’m willing to bet if more people would at least try to comply with the law, there’d be less people in jail and less fatal shootings.

    Here’s a TRUE STORY…an EXCLUSIVE

    When I was in Grad School, I drove my girlfriend home one night and we parked in front of a public park to get in the backseat.

    Things were getting hot and suddenly the cops roll up on my car and see the foggy windows. (sunroof was open but it didn’t help).

    We got out of the car – under police flashlight – fixed our clothes and the cop says:

    “Do you smell weed? I smell weed? We are gonna check the car”.

    Second cop checks the car, but I knew I was in the clear cause I HAVE NEVER SMOKED MARIJUANA IN MY LIFE – simply because it’s illegal. girlfriend hasn’t done any drugs ever either.

    I HAVE NO CRIMINAL RECORD (Black Male Republican 34 Years old)

    Anyway, I politely and calmly tell the officer:

    “I’ve never smoked weed sir…and I know you have a THC test that could prove if I did or not. I’d be happy to submit to a THC test. If you want to shave my underarm hair to check for particulates, no problem. I’ve never done drugs and I probably never will. ”

    Police realize right away that I’m serious.

    They let us go with a warning: “take it to a motel”.

    I’m still alive. I still have no criminal record – they could have summoned me or ticketed us… No bullet holes. My car wasn’t destroyed from drug searching.

    Long story short: DON’T DO DRUGS.

    Don’t complain to me that you got an unfair rap when YOU WERE BREAKING THE LAW and committing felonies.

    On a side note: not only have I spent thousands – and earned thousands on Marijuana stocks… I also bought into a company called BLOZF which is designing marijuana breathalyzers.

    After my recent trip to Denver, I figure it like this:

    Whether marijuana becomes legalized nationally or not, the law is NEVER going to allow people to drive while high. They’ll end up treating marijuana just like alcohol so I might as well PROFIT off of people who aren’t smart enough to just obey the law.

    BLOZF – look it up.

    I personally REFUSE to drive even remotely intoxicated (obviously so I don’t risk my $70,000+ cars) but also so I don’t lose my license running over some 4 year old or hitting a family in a soul-less Japanese-import that wasn’t designed to take the impact of a 5000 pound Supercharged iron-block HEMI.

    WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST TRY TO OBEY THE LAW???

    I obey the law.

    despite being called:

    Uncle Tom
    Tap dancer for whitey
    Sambo

    and a bunch of other things:

    I have no criminal record

    I AM RICH

    and I’m still alive.

    Biggie and Tupac…not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      “Here’s my question: WHY DON’T PEOPLE SIMPLY OBEY THE LAW?”

      How about you ask yourself that question the next time you’re doing 65 in a 40 zone.

      It would also help IF YOU READ THE *%÷£÷ING ARTICLE. The tests are inaccurate, people are SIMPLY OBEING THE LAW but are still being arrested on false positives.

      Here’s my question: Why not actually read the article instead of jumping ahead just to be the first poster? Because its a good way not to make an @$$ out of yourself.

      • 0 avatar

        I WASN’T SPEEDING…the radar gun was inaccurate.

        I wasn’t doing 65 in a 40zone.

        I was doing 70.

        FURTHERMORE – I think people with BETTER CARS should be able to buy a special license that allows them to exceed the speed limit by 20 – 30%.

        My car IDLES at 35. I can’t obey these stupid 25mph laws nor should I have to.

        This is TRUE ANARCHY.

        anarchy is a “tyranny of law”. Laws set up that people can’t actually obey – just to ticket people.

        I can accelerate and brake better than these losers in 4 cylinders and I deserve to be able to get a $500 – $1000 license that allows me to.

        Thing is, I get pulled over ALL THE TIME.

        I don’t mouth off to the cops and I just comply so it never escalates.

        MEANWHILE…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST TRY TO OBEY THE LAW???”

      Because they are spending 22% of their annual income or more on transportation costs and they seek escape from serfdom in substance abuse. Public school must have missed Homer’s lessons of the Sirens.

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/07/barks-bites-buying-cheap-car-expensive/#comment-8033114

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “they seek escape from serfdom in substance abuse”

        I can play kumbaya with a comb and wax paper!

        Listen…..

      • 0 avatar

        #1 regardless who wins in November: more than 60% of this country is going to be ANGRY

        #2 today’s undisciplined, angry, violent youth haven’t seen anything yet.

        what used to be isolated incidents of “police brutality” are now being forced together by social media network by unprofessional editors and agenda-minded racists of varying skin colors, creeds and religions.

        You haven’t seen anything yet. 3 videos of “police brutality” surface simultaneously. Criminal records, sexoffender records pop up the next.

        #3 Faith in government is at an all time low because now people are paying ALMOST as much attention to their government as they do to THE VIEW, Sports and Comedy shows.

        I’m gonna need more popcorn and a new caps lock key.

        Actually, it’s not “caps lock”…it’s FACTS LOCK.

      • 0 avatar

        “they seek escape from serfdom in substance abuse”

        Alcohol doesn’t work for me.

        I turned to automotive websites on social media when I need to escape the harsh realities of life in a country that is steadily being ruined.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      BTSR went to grad school? Absolutely most shocking thing he ever wrote.

      • 0 avatar

        Not only did I graduate with a 4.0 average from Grad School

        I paid off my student loans 30 years early and I’m currently in AGAIN for another Master’s Degree – which I’m financing with cash out of pocket (no more loans for me)

        $450 per credit. 30 credits.

        I will have a Masters in Administration / District leadership.

        I am currently running a 3.85 (A- hurts)

        Afterall – TRACKHAWK isn’t gonna be cheap.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Yet another satisfied Trump University graduate.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          He has a master’s in being insufferable.

          • 0 avatar
            VenomV12

            I feel he is probably generally an alright guy that just suffers from extremely low self-esteem. Obviously some really bad stuff happened to him growing up and he needs to make himself seem more powerful and important than he really is. My neighborhood has people that are everything from VPs to General Counsels of Fortune 50 companies, all manner of surgeons etc etc and I can’t for the life of me find one person in here with one tenth of the ego or arrogance he has. It’s almost amusing actually.

    • 0 avatar
      Ltd1983

      You wouldn’t happen to be white, would you…

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      ““Here’s my question: WHY DON’T PEOPLE SIMPLY OBEY THE LAW?””

      Because The Law, all law, is, as the prog drones have been told to chant at progressive revivalist meetings, a “living document.”

      Designed for the purpose of letting the ruling classes, trample all over people, while pretending the whole charade is somehow not entirely arbitrary.

      Hence, if everyone “obeys The Law”, then the necessary response is to make “The Law” less easy to obey. Rinse and Repeat. Until you can send those you don’t like to gulag, while telling the drones you had to do so to keep them safe. Since the poor sap “Broke The Law” and all……

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        [email protected], I must have misplaced my invite to the next Progressive Revivalist Meeting. Could you forward it to me? I just had my Ralph Nader costume dry cleaned special and have been practicing my Living Document Chants all week.

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      Anyone who feels the need to write I AM RICH …probably isn’t. People who are actually rich dont go around saying so

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      I have a question: if that girl didn’t want to be raped, why did she wear such a sexy dress?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      May I tell you a story?

      Back in 1992, living in Johnstown, PA, I inherited the family home once my father died. Now, the family home was in the rich suburb on the west side of town. Prior to his death, I (and my girlfriend) were living on the east side of town in somewhat lesser circumstances.

      I was also flying the colors of the Brotherhood of Veterans M/C, the local hardcore motorcycle club in the county.

      Dad was in the hospital for two weeks before he died, and the day I took him in we both knew he wasn’t coming home. While he was still alive, I immediately changed my address to the family residence, and stayed at the house while my girlfriend stayed at our apartment.

      So it’s the summer of ’92, and I’m coming home at night from the clubhouse, or one of the local watering holes. And within a month of having moved in, I managed to meet every officer in the township’s seven man police department. For all the usual reasons: “Are you sure those pipes are legal?”, “Flickering tail light”, “Off the line a bit fast, weren’t you?”, etc., etc., etc. With the inevitable sniff around my face in the hopes of smelling strong alcohol (I’m not that stupid).

      “Registration, license, insurance card.” After the second office I started carrying them in my shirt pocket rather than digging them out of my wallet. And you could see the look in the officer’s eyes as soon as he read the name and address on the driver’s license (dad was a fairly prominent businessman, I’m Junior) – suddenly there’s no problem, my pipes are legal, my electrical system is just fine, etc., etc., etc.

      And after I’d met all seven gentlemen (and I always kept a good sense of humor about me in these situations), I never had a problem again crossing over the township line. Hell, one night when I was dumb enough to drink way too much, one of the officer’s having come up behind me and recognizing my Harley followed me home to make sure I got into my driveway without dumping the bike. The term DUI was never mentioned.

      At which point, you’ve got the conundrum: Do you get pissed at being profiled for driving in a neighborhood where you’re not wanted; or, as a taxpayer and property owner, are you grateful that the law is looking out for you so well?

      So don’t give me that crap about “not breaking the law”. Sometimes, you’re breaking the law in some people’s eyes by just breathing and being on the street.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      The police will frequently pull people over for any number of manufactured reasons.(Driving while black, driving while hispanic, driving while sweaty, driving while greasy, missing hubcap, whatever.)

      The first thing I tell police if I am pulled over is “I am specifically invoking the 5th Amendment of the Federal Constitution and will not answer any of your questions. Am I free to go?” Repeat as necessary if the interrogation continues. (Done in a calm, pleasant, non-threatening, non-confrontational tone of voice.) Of course my papers are presented if asked for, which normally is the case.

      This is not merely my own opinion, most lawyers will tell you the same thing, for example:

      http://www.kirkpiccione.com/10-reasons-not-talk-police/

      Never had a problem doing this. (If I get a ticket as a result I fight it if appropriate or just pay it otherwise.) Of course your mileage may vary.

    • 0 avatar
      VenomV12

      You are what 6′ 6″, big and black as the ace of spades and have guns and drive kind of expensive cars? Don’t for your life think that your luck can’t run out one day and I suspect you know it no matter how much bluster you have. I’m guessing the average cop who doesn’t know you when they see you think that you are either a pro-athlete if you are lucky or a drug dealer if you are not so lucky.

      I remember a story one of my parent’s family friends told us one day. They are light skinned black, the husband is a surgeon and the wife also a physician and they had just bought a $2.5 million house in a very nice neighborhood and the husband was outside one day and the white guy next door came out speaking crude Spanish to him asking him basically “where is your boss?”. Top surgeon, well groomed, well dressed and this prick next door still thought he was the gardener, so don’t think you are somehow excepted.

      Didn’t you say the other day that you made $100/hr? That’s not rich, that’s Midwest family practice money and you are not in the Midwest, you are in the NYC area. You wouldn’t even be rich if you made Orthopod money HA HA. I mean you are doing fine but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

      Let me ask you this, I don’t live in NYC, but I have a building there in Brooklyn, Prospect Heights area, 9 apartment units with commercial space below on a corner, could you afford that?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Never got a DWB? I have a few coworkers and some friends that have suffered the whole profiling bit and have been pulled over for least little bit.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      What I love about the Obama Years is all the racial healing and respect for the Rule of Law.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        What we are seeing on the evening news isn’t because of Obama so much as the fact that nearly everyone has a smartphone now, which brings to light how some cops have been treating blacks for decades.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          Just follow the lawful instructions of law enforcement and there shouldn’t be a problem. Chris Rock has a great instructional video that even you should be able to understand, Vogo.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Huh? I’m a 52 year old white guy who drives responsibly. I’ve been pulled over once in the last 20 years.

            My concerns aren’t for myself, but rather as someone who cares about his fellow citizens.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “What I love about the Obama Years is all the racial healing and respect for the Rule of Law.”

        Given that you’re a major ass boil you probably *do* love it every time a cop kills or gets killed.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          Settle down, a criticism of your Dear Leader shouldn’t cause you to blow your “O” ring, fan boi.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            When I was growing up, people might disagree with their president, but they respected the office enough to never say something like that publicly.

            Oddly, that all changed when the president was black.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            Sorry, Charlie, disagreeing with the politics and policies of a man has nothing to do with the amount of melanin in his skin. Race cards are the last refuge of scoundrels. He is shown the same amount of respect he gives to people who simply disagree with him. He is thin-skinned and in way over his head. He tells his followers to “get in their face, punch back twice as hard”, I take him at his word. He’s a divider.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            If you disagree with the President’s policies, then state your case like a man.

            Don’t resort to “O-ring” and “Dear Leader” sarcasm or saying he is “in over his head.”

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            hey, opinions are like elbows, but in your case…

            Mr. Obama has romanticized rioting, belligerence, the subversion of our civil society, and hatred for police. What we’re seeing going down in Dallas tonight is chapter and verse from the Alinsky Playbook… Rules For Radicals.

            Welcome to 1968. Drive safe, Elmo.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      I do typically obey the law. The problem with your argument is that I am a citizen, not a subject and my innocence is presumed, not my guilt. I treat law enforcement with the same respect I treat anyone and expect that same courtesy from them. 99.9 percent of my encounters have been positive but then again, I’m not in one of the minority groups that seem to be targeted disproportionately so your mileage may vary.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    “New York Times with the help of non-profit investigative journalism body ProPublica.”

    Ugh. Say no more. I’m sure facts and reason we’re not used then.

    And yes, BTSR is right. If you got pulled over, it’s for a reason. It’s called reasonable suspicion. You may not like the reason you were pulled over, but officers need a reason to do so. And the reason can be as minor as a cracked windshield or something hanging from a mirror.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      “…but officers need a reason to do so.”

      I wish I could live in this fantasy land.

      They will make up any reason they wish if they just feel like f’in with you. “Oh your car has a dented fender, we had a hit and run two weeks ago” “oh, we are looking for a guy matching your description”.

      John got pulled over last week for sweating too much. He worked 8 hours in the sun and then got into a hot car, and was on the road for all of 5 minutes. But, no, heat index being 110, yep you’re sweating so you must had just robbed a liquor store and raped 6 kids on the way out.

      I was pulled over on a Texas highway because my perfectly stock Ford Taurus looked like a “typical drug dealer car”. No, it wasn’t beat up, it wasn’t riding low, I wasn’t pulling out of a bad neighborhood, the car was less than ten years old, I wasn’t going too slow or too fast. But, he ripped everything out of the car, found nothing, and spun rocks all over my belongings as I was picking them up as he left. He had a drug dog in the car, but didn’t bother letting him check the car first. It was much easier to dump my clean clothes and linens in the dirt and then walk across them as he went back for more.

      I was also pulled over for “unclean license plate” in Texas… Except he saw me only from the front when he directed me to pull over and the front was clean.

      They need a reason? No, they just need to make up a reason. Not all LEO’s are like this, but a lot are and you’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

      Good thing I didn’t have any B.C. headache power or I might’ve gone to jail for cocaine possession.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you for complying with the officer.

        Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

      • 0 avatar

        I have NEVER seen a person who doesn’t do drugs at all test positive for drugs.

        Nor have I seen a law abiding citizens suddenly pulled over and test positive for drugs – or alcohol.

        sounds like you’re trying to make EXCUSES FOR CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          So we have a choice between believing a loudmouth mortgage broker and a well researched report from the New York Times.

          How to choose, how to choose.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’d like a third choice as there is a good chance they are both full of it.

          • 0 avatar
            everybodyhatesscott

            ‘Well researched report from the NYT’ Lol

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            The New York Times has long been regarded within the industry as the national newspaper of record
            and has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspapers.

            If you have a more credible source, please name it.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Newsmax!!!

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            I’ll pick the broker. The NYT is even unfit for lining a birdcage.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Remind us how many Pulitzers you’ve won, General Malaise.

            Remember, people may call you a grey lady, but that doesn’t make you the nation’s newspaper of record.

          • 0 avatar
            GeneralMalaise

            Jaysus, quick someone give little Jimmy a paper route.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            NYT was was pretty much The Paper of Record back when Hazlitt ran their economics practice.

            Which, today, is about as relevant as America supposedly being some kind of Land of the Free, back when Jefferson ran the show.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Sorry that you lost your freedoms. Send us a post card from Mogadishu so we know you’re OK, will ya?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @BTSR – you obviously do not know how ” testing” works.
          The only accurate way to know what chemicals one has in one’s blood stream is through a blood draw and mass spectrography.

          The police or simple ER drug screens are just reagent strips or chemicals that react a specific way when exposed to a substance.

          If you have had a cold and ingested decongestants containing phenylephrine, ephedrine or similar analogues one will often yield false positives for methamphetamines and/or ecstasy. Certain antidepressants will also yield a false positive for meth.

          Poppy seeds and some medications will yield a false positive for narcotics.

          Interestingly enough you can be loaded up on Oxycodone and these screens will often miss it since it is a semisynthetic opioid. Same can be said for methadone and fentanyl.

          Some vitamin compounds can yield a false positive for THC. lbuprofen and other NSAIDS will also yield a false positive.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          YOU’RE JUST LUCKY THERE’S NOT A TEST FOR IT, AND STILL LEGAL TO DRIVE WHILE BLOWHARD.

      • 0 avatar
        Geekcarlover

        Officers need a reason? “The distinct smell of marijuana was emanating from the car.” Try disproving this in court. Even if they don’t find any pot, everything else they do find is admissible.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Oh, Lawsey, Lawsey! Oh, da humanitay!

  • avatar
    tommytipover

    So… are you trying to tell me people are pleading out because their baggie of laundry soap gave a false positive????

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      The poor don’t have access to expensive lawyers who can fight for their rights. The DA offers them a deal and they take it to avoid the risk of a lengthy trial and long jail sentence.

      • 0 avatar
        everybodyhatesscott

        The middle class does this too. I defended myself once because a lawyer cost more than the fine but I refused to take a plea deal. I lost. I was unemployed at the time but couldn’t get a public defender cause I had too much money saved.

        Being charged is punishment even if you’re innocent.

        • 0 avatar
          tommytipover

          What suspicious substances are people driving around with that cause false positives for illicit substances?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            tommytipover – I covered that earlier in the thread.
            The road side drug testing done by police aren’t accurate.
            Breathalysers are much more accurate.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Lawyer or not, I call BS on the article.

      The roadside test provides probable cause for an arrest. That’s all it does. For the case to be prosecuted, one of two things need to happen. One, a confession. Two, the results of the roadside test need to be validated by a certified lab.

      This article is nothing more than sensationalism for the sake of getting people riled up.

      • 0 avatar
        VenomV12

        Not true, the purpose of this is to get people to cop to a lesser charge which equals money. When I was young I had an incident when I was in college and got pulled over and had a warrant out for some BS thing called failure to change address. I of course did do that and had my documentation, so I went to court to fight it. The prosecutor came to the room and asked me if I wanted to plea to a lesser charge and I said no, I have my documentation and I am going to fight this. He walks away, comes back a few minutes later and told me my case was dismissed. They knew they had no case but is was a crap shoot I would take the deal and they get free money, sometimes they win, sometimes they lose but it doesn’t cost them anything.

        • 0 avatar
          brn

          VenomV12, I’ve seen it work the other way several times. The defense attorney has a long list of issues until he discovers the officer actually showed up for court. The list then magically vanishes.

          I don’t doubt what you say also happens.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      33% higher… New and improved!

    • 0 avatar
      tommytipover

      The article states they are testing substances NOT people. If someone is copping a plea, it’s because they know what is in that baggie.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Yes. That’s what the study found. With a public defenders main motivation being to close the issue with the least time spent, they advise to “take the deal” with a note that the full (inflated or false) charges can result in 25 years, but a guilty plea will only get you 2, so you should just take the deal. It looks really good to me (no time spent and a completed “defense”). That’s how the right to an attorney works in the USA. That’s why most inmates didn’t get a trial. That’s “tough on crime”. That’s why DNA and other full lab grade testing exonerates so many convicts.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    The vast majority of cases in the criminal justice system are, in fact, plea deals. Trials are expensive, difficult, and risky and prosecutors are usually quite eager to get a guilty plea in exchange for reduced sentences.

    If you’ve ever wondered how it is somebody can have 5 serious violent felonies on their record and still be out walking around breathing free air, there’s your explanation: Plea deals. Aggravated assault gets plead down to simple assault. Etc.

    The drug test kits are horribly flawed. They are, AT BEST, supposed to be used to establish probable cause. A proper test of the substance is supposed to be done at a crime lab…and if the defendant has any sense he/she will have independent tests done, too. Crime labs have been known to make errors and even outright falsify evidence. Look up the story of Annie Dookhan sometime.

    The problems on those stupid little kits have been so well documented at this point that they shouldn’t even suffice as probable cause anymore. They are wrong far too much of the time.

    An arrest has to be founded on more than the color of a liquid in a vial. And in cases of guilty pleas, often there is more to the story than just the roadside test. If, for instance, you know that you’ve got crack on you and the roadside test comes back positive for crack, you are facing a significantly different set of incentives and disincentives than the poor innocent family who had their house raided because the department in their area went through their garbage, got a false positive on some tea leaves, and then did a raid looking for non-existent MJ.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    I also encourage everyone to read the National Academy of Sciences report on forensics. The short version is that the TV show CSI is not representative of the reality of forensics used in the criminal justice system, and a lot more attention needs to be paid to making sure the “science” used by the system is actually REAL science.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I always assumed about 100% of the people in FL under 65 are on meth.

  • avatar
    5280thinair

    The vast majority of convictions these days come from plea-bargaining. Several studies have shown that many people who aren’t guilty end up accepting a plea bargain for a misdemeanor charge simply because they can’t afford a lawyer or can’t afford to take time off of work to go fight the charge. And, in some places, just driving a car while being the “wrong” race will get you pulled over*. So, driver gets pulled over, possibly for no legitimate reason, and the officer decides to use one of these drug detection kits. The kid gives a positive, so and arrest is made and turned over for prosecution. If the driver doesn’t have the resources to fight the charge, and he’s offered a plea down to a lesser charge that won’t cost him much, some of them are going to feel they have no choice but to take it.

    *Years ago one of the major networks ran a piece about blacks being targeted in Long Beach. They had a black driver in a fully legal car drive just under the speed limit and be careful to obey all traffic laws, and put a camera car behind him. Fairly quickly he was pulled over for “straddling between lanes” which the camera proved he hadn’t done.)

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      At that same time a Black Police officer was pulled over and shoved through a plate glass shop window in Signal Hill next to Long Beach) before he could says ‘ hey wait , I’m an LEO ‘ .
      .
      Some things don’t appear to ever change .
      .
      -Nate

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    On the opposite side of this is a trial that happened here recently.

    A dump truck driver took out a major bridge because he was driving on the highway with his dump bed up. When police got through the carnage to find him, they also found an open liquor bottle in the truck. He blew positive on a DWI field test. His blood test was three times the legal limit, but despite him being in custody the whole time, that evidence was thrown out since police waited too long to get the blood test done. So it goes both ways.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Two sides of the same coin – shoddy police work.

      Look at how hard police work to avoid giving other officers, DAs, and judges DUIs. If you believe in the equality of law, then you must believe that the worst dumptruck driver deserves the same lack of DUI enforcement that police enjoy today.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    Seems like we could save the trouble of developing better field drug test kits by simply legalizing drugs. It would be much easier.

    WTF do I care if somebody has a ziplock of plant powder in the trunk?

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Aren’t there civilized, western countries that have legalized, recreational drug use where the crime rate (particularly violent crime) is a fraction of what it is in the US?

      If so, it would lend credence to the notion that the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ is perpetuated not for any lofty safety concern for the general public welfare, but more for governmental monetary gain.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Rudiger,
        It’s worse than that. The ones that benefited the most from the war on drugs were the private prison systems that lobbied so hard for mandatory sentencing. Add to that the inherent bias in the system against the poor and those of color, and you have a perfect storm of abuse.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          “Most shockingly, the total numbers of state and federal inmates grew more rapidly under Bill Clinton than under any other president, including the notorious Republican drug warriors Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.”

          — The New Republic

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            The statistics aren’t shocking at all. Three strikes and you’re out was passed during the Clinton administration.

            What is shocking is that Republicans continue to portray Democrats as soft on crime, and their voters never realize the lie.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Yes, most other civilized countries have nowhere near the number of incarcerated citizens that we do. We’ve turned prisons into “good business” yet still have the gall to call it a “correctional system.” Then you’ve got blowhards like EBFlex above who think that’s just fine because “if the police are talking to you then you must be guilty of something.”

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          “the number of incarcerated citizens”

          The only other choices at this point being kill, deport, or release to the community, I’d be thankful for this while the funding lasts.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            if you believe those are the “only” other choices, then you’re part of the problem.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            It’s arguable that decades past there were other avenues open, but I *did* say “at this point”.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I realize it’s easy to ignore it when it’s just “those people’s” problem, but I don’t like the mindset that we should just throw up our hands and say “welp, we broke it, might as well leave it broke.”

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            You give “us” too much agency. As Dallas last night shows, the choice has moved out of the purview of an enlightened citizenry.

            I’d say it actually did that 50 years ago, it’s just that we had a vastly more stable base than Saint-Domingue or South Africa so our trajectory is comparatively slo-mo.

          • 0 avatar
            bikegoesbaa

            Why do you care if somebody who is non-violent and was pinched for transporting/dealing/using drugs is released into the community?

            They sell powerful drugs at the grocery store. They call it alcohol. Kroger is a drug dealer, and almost every adult in America is a drug user. So what?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      OK, but I’m pretty sure that even if drugs WERE legalized, driving under the influence shouldn’t be.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        Sure, that’s fine. Test the driver for impairment and if he’s flying high then throw the book at him; that makes sense.

        But this article is about testing for the physical possession of drugs, not for driving while under their influence.

        We spend an inordinate amount of time, money, effort, and wasted lives trying to prevent people from ingesting or transporting arbitrary “bad things”. Who cares? Just legalize and tax it.

        Just say no to drug laws.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Correct, but it would (hopefully) reduce the number of people we throw in jail for non-violent offenses, and (wishful thinking) get rid of disgusting BS like civil forfeiture.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Eye-opening discussion on the subject of petty drug law enforcement:

      youtube.com/watch?v=Ndg-JGmYryA

  • avatar
    balreadysaid

    Police need to worry about drug dealers not the people buying. Easy money pulling people over for barely anything and coming up with a dwi. All they figure is they gained 25% in revenue by having 2 tests instead of one. They must have have out so many life crushing dwi alcohols people quit drinking and started smoking pot. Not many roadblock arrests are made for alcohol like the 90’$ early 2000’$. Money grabs like this ruin people’s lives. Start them down a road they can’t turn off of. We need an overhaul in our entire legal system to stop giving the bad ones all the perks. And taking jobs away from a guy who smoked a joint. You loose your job quick for a dwi. But the guy who never had a job and raped some women gets to watch tv all day.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    When I was younger I had a couple of pretty laughable run ins with cops that were blatant liars. I almost never drink, maybe 3 times a year if that and was usually the DD for my friends, including a few cops. I had a new six figure car also which tends to draw attention somewhat. I remember one time my buddy was at the bar and I went over to talk to him for a second, saw the cop literally across the road when I pulled in and came out less than 3 minutes later. He pulled me over and asked me if I was drinking or drunk. I laughed at him and told him you know damn well I am not, you just saw me pull in a few minutes ago and I saw you sitting there and he told me to just go.

    The second time I was at a club a town over, drank absolutely nothing, not even soda. The state trooper pulled me over and when I was talking to him he said I smell alcohol on your breath. I laughed at him and said that was impossible, not only do I not drink, I drank nothing there. Told him I would be more than happy to take a breathalyzer right there and then, he just walked away, came back and told me to go.

    Mind you this was back in the day when cops were not psychopaths, if I was in the same position today I probably would not handle those situations the same way.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Police pulling over people and falsely accusing them with faulty equipment? How dare you. Also the flurry of trainers who stopped dealing with police when they requested the K9s to be trained to signal on command? Believe or not, once that little line on the drug tester turns a color, you still have ways out, provided you did not greet the PO red-eyed in a car that has hand-drawn plates or reg.sticker and weren’t going 90MPH in a 45 zone. Officers are people, politeness goes a ling way. Unless the officer is an asshole.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Canadian cops must be way nicer than American ones. LOL

  • avatar
    -Nate

    “I personally REFUSE to drive even remotely intoxicated (obviously so I don’t risk my $70,000+ cars) but also so I don’t lose my license running over some 4 year old or hitting a family in a soul-less Japanese-import that wasn’t designed to take the impact of a 5000 pound Supercharged iron-block HEMI.

    WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST TRY TO OBEY THE LAW???

    I obey the law.

    despite being called:

    Uncle Tom
    Tap dancer for whitey
    Sambo

    and a bunch of other things:

    I have no criminal record

    I AM RICH

    and I’m still alive.

    Biggie and Tupac…not so much.”
    .
    Gad , I didn’t realize , your normal bombast is so appalling I just “ASS-U-ME’D” you are one more New York version of the braggart White guys I grew up with .
    .
    FWIW , I agree 1,000 % with “obey the law” . yesterday one of my Teenaged Foster boys , who doesn’t smoke weed nor do any other drugs , got pulled up short & hard by the L.A. County sheriffs , a jerk off cowboy outfit if ever one existed .
    .
    They made him kneel in the dirt in his clean clothes , hassled him for a while then said: ‘ it’s your jacket , it looks suspicious ‘ (NOT a thug typ hoodie).
    .
    So , I have to explain to him that walking while Black is , indeed a crime in America 2016 , I expect him to bite his tongue and be 1,000 polite and circumspect else I’ll have to I.D. him at the Morgue .
    .
    Hard lessons to swallow for a 5’9″sixteen year old kid who wears geeky glasses like mine and who’s trying to get by.
    .
    FWIW , I’m no angel but I managed to remain alive where being White wasn’t the smart thing to be , in a large part by not being an a-hole just because .
    .
    -Nate

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