Field drug tests may produce inaccurate results in CO

Field drug tests used by law enforcement officers to identify unknown substances may be inaccurate and lead to wrongful arrests of innocent people.

Colorado law enforcement officers may use a field drug test to help them determine a substance's identity when they encounter a person carrying an unknown substance. If the mysterious substance tests positive for an illegal drug, such as heroin, crack or cocaine, the carrier may be arrested and charged with drug possession. Many studies show that certain chemicals used to identify illegal substances in field drug tests may yield inaccurate results. Non-controlled prescription medication, flour and herbs have been mistaken for illegal substances after being tested with color reagents. This has led to the wrongful arrest and conviction of innocent people in Colorado and across the country.

Testing for drugs

In order to tell whether a powder or pill is composed of an illegal drug, officers will use a field color test, or presumptive test, according to How Stuff Works. Although these tests are not able to tell officers the exact identity of the unknown substance, they are designed to give them a general idea of the substance's legality. In order to perform a field drug test, an officer adds a solution composed of different compounds to the unknown substance. The substance will then turn a certain color, depending on its chemical characteristics. For example, a concentrated sulfuric acid and formaldehyde solution will turn an orange-brown color when mixed with amphetamines. On the other hand, the same solution will turn purple when added to opium-based drugs, such as heroin and morphine.

Wrongful arrest

It is unclear as to how many people have been wrongfully arrested, charged and convicted of drug offenses because of inaccurate drug field tests. While some people have the means necessary to obtain an attorney and fight the erroneous charges, other innocent people may be forced to serve out their sentences due to lack of resources or support.

According to New York Daily News, a Minnesota man was wrongfully charged with two felony counts of drug possession after police officers misidentified a stash of pills as amphetamines. After the man had been locked away in jail for nearly three months, officers determined that the pills were actually vitamins, and the man was released from jail.

Legal assistance may be essential to your case

The penalties associated with a drug crime in Colorado can be severe. People facing these charges may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of spending time in prison, especially if they are innocent. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help you explore all of your legal options, and point you down the path that is right for you.

Keywords: wrongful, arrest, conviction, drug crime