Strong Criminal Defense Needed When Field Drug Tests Are Used

Imagine having your house raided by police because the wet tea leaves in your trash looked somewhat like marijuana. Imagine being pulled over, arrested and jailed for a month for possessing homemade soap that looked like it could be cocaine. In these situations, most Georgia citizens immediately retain an attorney to ensure their rights are protected and to start building a strong criminal defense.

These scenarios may sound far-fetched, but they are true stories. They are just some of the many horrible consequences of police drug tests used in the field (rather than in a lab). Many of these tests are highly unreliable, yet they often provide enough “evidence” for police to obtain search warrants and for prosecutors to coerce innocent defendants into pleading guilty.

Many of these field tests show results through color changes (when a sample of the suspected drug is dropped into a certain liquid, for instance). In the marijuana case mentioned above, police used the “NarcoPouch KN reagent test.” It is supposed to test for the presence of cannabis, and many officers apparently believe that the tests are conclusive. But in one study, researchers used the test on 42 legal plant products, and 33 of them falsely tested positive for marijuana. The plants tested included common ones like basil, spearmint and peppermint.

One test, used to detect cocaine, involves dropping a sample into a chemical called cobalt thiocyanate. If it turns blue, the tested substance could be cocaine. Then again, it could also be one of more than 80 other compounds — many of them legal.

While inaccurate, field tests are typically fully examined later in lab studies, and this can take a long time. For some defendants, getting arrested can essentially mean losing their job and household. If a Georgia resident has been charged with a drug crime, seeking the counsel of an attorney who can help build a strong criminal defense could be the only way to ensure that he or she doesn’t become another casualty of these pseudoscientific tests.

Source:, “Lying Drug Tests Incriminate Innocent People“, Jacob Sullum, Accessed on Nov. 17, 2016

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