Police Conducted Drug Testing Increases the Rate of Guilty Pleas

Cops routinely conduct elementary chemical tests when they make drug arrests. This test often comes in a small plastic pouch that contains a vial of pink liquid. Offers will drop a tiny piece of what they suspect to be narcotics into the liquid. If the liquid remains pink, it rules out the presence of illegal drugs. However, if the liquid turns blue, then the person being tested becomes a felony defendant.

These field test, which cost about $2 each, have not changed much since 1973 and can hardly be considered reliable. For example, a chemical called cobalt thiocyanate, which turns blue when it is exposed to cocaine, also turns blue when it’s exposed to more than 80 other compounds. Some of these compounds can be found in acne medicine and common household cleaners. Weather conditions and environmental factors can affect the test’s results as well. Essentially, the accuracy of a field drug test depends on who is using it and how.

Although the field tests are inadmissible at trial, this prohibition has proven to be meaningless because of the informal process of plea bargaining. Prosecutors often accept guilty pleas based solely on the results of a field test. Judges also commonly accept plea deals on a similar basis. Recent data shows that 10% of all county and state felony convictions are for drug charges, with at least 90% of those convictions coming from plea deals. In Tennessee and Kansas, guilty pleas entered prior to trial make up more than 95% of drug-possession convictions. Each year at least 100,000 people will plead guilty to drug-possession charges that were the direct result of officer conducted field tests. Modest estimates suggest that thousands of individuals behind bars have been wrongfully convicted.

This is why it is vital to secure strong, experienced legal representation if you face drug possession charges. At The Law Offices of Paul S. Geller, we know how to fight against the results of a field drug test. As a former deputy district attorney, Mr. Geller is ready to properly handle your case and defend your rights. 

Contact our Pasadena drug crimes attorney, or call (626) 784-4143 to start your free consultation.


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