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Consequences of inaccurate roadside testing of unknown substances

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2016 | DUID |

Here’s a tale of woe from outside Colorado that has a “there but for the grace of God” tinge to it.

To wit: A man in another state was suspected by police officers of being in possession of an illegal drug. That state allows — as does Colorado — law enforcement officials to perform in-the-field drug testing. The officers exercised that discretion and determined that pills in the man’s possession were illegal amphetamines.

As a result of that conclusion, the man was arrested and charged on multiple drug felony counts.

Alas, here’s the sad end to that story (readers probably know what’s coming). It was ultimately determined that the “unlawful substance” was in fact vitamins. That happy fact was deduced after the man had already been behind bars for months.

The tale certainly has an “it could happen to you” feel about it, especially given the potential for testing error. We cite studies from an article on our criminal law website discussing field drug testing revealing that “certain chemicals used to identify illegal substances in field drug tests may yield inaccurate results.” That alleged cocaine could in fact be nothing more than an innocuous prescription medicine. A powder deemed to be heroin might actually be an over-the-counter herb.

It is far from a shocking revelation to note that mistakes made by law enforcers occur all the time. Police officers are human, after all. Roadside drug testing is susceptible of error, just as is the inherent subjectivity of a cop that can render conclusions regarding field sobriety tests questionable.

Many factors can play a role in wrong conclusions drawn during roadside encounters between police officers and individuals suspected of drunk or drugged driving. Any Colorado motorist arrested for a driving-related offense might reasonably want to contact a proven criminal defense attorney without delay to closely examine the state’s case for error and to push for mitigation when it is present.