A Florida sheriff’s deputy recently made national news for a string of arrests based on inaccurate drug tests. The now-dismissed man made 81 arrests in his first 11 months on the job, and now he faces criminal charges for false arrest. While it is still unclear whether deputy is guilty of ineptitude or malicious intent and faked results, the fact remains that the deputy is responsible for putting many innocent people behind bars for days, weeks or months.
Lab analysis flagged the deputy
Drug analysis in a lab reported that the deputy’s evidence turned out to headache powder, laundry detergent and even beach sand. The fact that this false evidence was enough to put people in jail is troubling. The Martin County Sheriff’s Department is now looking into the matter, and 11 of the 81 defendants arrested have already been released from jail.
Field tests are inaccurate one-fifth to one-third of the time
According to one study, this deputy is not alone in conducting inaccurate tests. Regardless of law enforcement’s motives, it is now understood that $2 drug testing kits not reliable. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has determined that 21 percent of evidence listed as methamphetamine turned out to not be the drug. More troubling is the fact that half of those false positives were for substances that were not even drugs of any kind.
Law enforcement will often get it wrong because:
- They do not understand how to read the results
- There are 80 other substances that are known to test positive for cocaine (such as laundry detergent)
It is important not to panic
Victims of false charges face very serious challenges, but there is no need to panic, or even plea to a lesser charge “just to put the trouble behind you.” Ideally, an in-house lab test will overturn the false test. If that does not happen, it is recommended to seek legal guidance from a criminal defense attorney who handles drug charges. They have experience handling false drug test readings as well as addressing law enforcement that intentionally or unintentionally arrests innocent victims.