New Jersey residents may want to look at wrongful drug convictions in other states as cautionary tales. Some states have been using roadside drug tests to test suspicious substances. Now, more news is breaking that these tests have resulted in several wrongful convictions based on false positives.
Court belatedly announces wrongful convictions
In 2017, Clark County in Nevada threw out the convictions of five individuals who had pled guilty to drug charges after substances they possessed tested positive for cocaine. The tests were thrown out after laboratory analysis concluded that the powders were not actually illegal. Clark County only added these exonerations to the National Registry of Exonerations this year. Other states that overturned criminal convictions were Oregon (five convictions) and Texas (over 250 convictions).
The exonerations in Nevada may have come too late to spare some of the defendants from serving their sentences. One of the suspects in Nevada was sentenced to eight months in jail, and the other four were sentenced to community service or left the state before sentencing.
Problems with the field tests
Not only do the field drug tests result in false positives, but they are often not checked by a laboratory for accuracy. In fact, after someone pleads guilty to an offense based on a roadside drug test, many police departments destroy the evidence before lab analysis can be done. Another issue with the field tests is that police often misinterpret them, which makes it all the more necessary for analysis to be conducted by a lab.
How to plead after a positive roadside drug test
Though many courts do not allow evidence of a positive roadside drug test at trial, some prosecutors will leverage these tests as a way to get a guilty conviction. If an officer tries to get you to talk or agree to a deal, do not engage. It is best to speak with a criminal law attorney before entering into negotiations with prosecutors.