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Chemical drug tests prove unreliable

Louisiana residents may be curious to learn about a relatively recent type of drug test that has proven to be problematic in multiple other states. Known as the roadside drug test, it is popular because it can quickly determine whether a substance on someone’s person is an illegal one; at least, that is how it is supposed to function. In reality, the test can result in false positives, meaning it can show that a substance is something like cocaine or methamphetamine when that is not actually the case.

The Clark County District Attorney’s Office in Nevada reported that it exonerated five individuals convicted of drug charges after it determined that the roadside drug tests showing that these individuals were in possession of cocaine were inaccurate. This determination was made after the substances in question were retested by a laboratory. All five of the defendants had pleaded guilty to the drug charges based on the police officers’ representations about the positive cocaine tests.

The Nevada exonerations were preceded by five similar cases in Multnomah County, Oregon, and over 250 instances in Houston, Texas. These exoneration events came after a news source reported on the widespread use of the roadside drug tests in multiple counties and the problems they presented.

Many judges are aware that these chemical field tests are unreliable. Thus, though these tests can be used to justify an arrest, they will often be excluded from evidence at trial. Unfortunately, most people who are accused of a crime do not know whether the evidence being levied against them by prosecutors is in fact admissible, and they will often plead to criminal charges because they fear the alternative, not realizing the evidence identified by police or prosecutors carries no weight. Because of this, it is a good idea to consult with a criminal defense attorney before entering into a plea deal.