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Thousands convicted by false drug positives

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by justtxyank, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. justtxyank

    justtxyank Contributing Member

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    This article was pretty disheartening this morning:

    https://www.propublica.org/article/common-roadside-drug-test-routinely-produces-false-positives

    Here's the lead in:
    The story focuses on one particular woman who was here in Houston for a quick trip with a boyfriend looking for a job. She had a disabled son and home and they got pulled over for failing to use a turn signal. A crumb on the floorboard was field tested and was positive for cocaine. She was arrested as the owner of the car and encouraged to take a plea deal for 45 days in jail (with a felony record) for possession of crack cocaine by her court appointed prosecutor. Her life was ruined. When the evidence was tested some time later by chance, the crumb turned out to be a non-chemical, unidentifiable substance, probably left over food.

    The article goes into depth about how these tests are used in various major cities throughout the United States and are essentially a guilt verdict if they give you a positive. Tens of thousands accept plea deals instead of court because these tests are a "failed drug test."

    However, the tests have a lot of variables that can cause them to fail, including the one that was used in here Houston reading positive if there is residue from cleaning substances on whatever the test. Heat can also lead to a false positive. There aren't reliable studies on the fail rate but some municipalities that have tested their own results have seen as high as 33% of "positive tests" be proven false when sent to a crime lab for chemical testing.

    Absolutely brutal.
     
  2. Sweet Lou 4 2

    Sweet Lou 4 2 Contributing Member
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    That's ridiculous. No one should be put in jail for having a crumb of crack in their car anyway. It's stupid.
     
  3. TheRealist137

    TheRealist137 Member

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    Would like to see the demographic information on the people being jailed based off of these bad tests.
     
  4. justtxyank

    justtxyank Contributing Member

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    Read the article. Lots and lots of information in it.

    Context: The below quote is deep in the article as it deals with 400 cases approximately in Harris County that were sampled where there was a plea bargain of guilty and the defendants were never given results of a lab test. Of those cases, 212 of the field tests that were put to chemical analysis and found to NOT be drugs. (Not Chemical Substance, NCS) This quote is explaining some details about the 212 cases.

    Some more quotes:

    Some striking stuff about the plea bargains being pushed...

     
  5. Surfguy

    Surfguy Contributing Member

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    If you get pulled over for not using a turn signal, then how does that become an officer is searching your car carpet for a crumb of whatever? Where is the probable cause to perform a search?
     
  6. justtxyank

    justtxyank Contributing Member

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    1) The driver (her boyfriend) was driving her car and didn't have a license
    2) The cop said he saw a syringe in plain view (He claimed it was one place and then wrote it was somewhere else on the evidence bag.) FYI, the syringe had no chemical residue on it.

    He asked the woman who was the owner of the car for permission to search the car. He told her if she refused he would detain her while he got a drug sniffing dog. She was standing outside the car in 93 degree heat in dress clothes. She consented thinking she had nothing to fear from a search.
     
  7. okierock

    okierock Contributing Member

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    I kinda have to agree with Lou here.
     
  8. StupidMoniker

    StupidMoniker I lost a bet
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    This just sounds like bad defense work. It is standard practice where I work to get the actual lab test before making a deal. Worst case scenario, you enter a conditional plea pending the outcome of a lab test, then if it comes back negative the case gets dismissed. California doesn't jail people for drug possession anymore though, just misdemeanor probation and a treatment program is standard.
     
  9. larsv8

    larsv8 Contributing Member

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    Our criminal justice "culture" is basically a nightmare all the way around.
     
  10. REEKO_HTOWN

    REEKO_HTOWN I'm Rich Biiiiaaatch!

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    It's a business.
     
  11. Surfguy

    Surfguy Contributing Member

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    Let me guess...they were African American.
     
  12. justtxyank

    justtxyank Contributing Member

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    This was not standard procedure in Harris County and if you read the article it is not standard procedure in many major municipalities in the United States.

    Apparently the woman could have done deferred adjudication pending the result of a lab test, but she claims the lawyer never told her that. He first claimed to have no memory of any conversations with her and then said he is sure he told her that option.

    The reality is that court appointed lawyers in these situations are rushing through a lot of cases and all they care about is closing them and collecting their fee. Not all of them of course, but a lot them. It's a grindhouse.

    The articles explains why Harris County, following Katria refugees, implemented a strong effort to do field testing for drugs because they believed they had an influx of criminals and drug testing was a good way to weed them out. The number of field drug test positives ballooned to a huge number which meant a lot of cases that had to be processed quickly.
     
  13. LosPollosHermanos

    LosPollosHermanos Appropriate pronouns only please
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    Initial tests like that have to go confirmatory GC testing where the exact compound is determined. If they aren't doing that, I don't understand how it's legal.
     
  14. justtxyank

    justtxyank Contributing Member

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    I swear, nobody reads the articles. LOL

    Arraignments happen fast and innocent people tend to accept plea deals very quickly because they are scared to death by "science" and ending up in jail for years. Labs are backed up and it takes a long time to test the actual evidence. In this case it took a year I believe before the evidence bag ever got opened in the lab because a plea deal was struck already. When the false positive gets reported it gets sent to a file.

    The statistics show that 73% of those who plead guilty on a false positive keep a felony on their record for up to 13 years before it ever gets cleaned up. In this woman's case, her arrest was 2010 I believe. Her evidence was proven false in 2011. It's now 2016 and she is still waiting on the Texas court system to overturn her felony.
     
  15. justtxyank

    justtxyank Contributing Member

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    Also (again, read the article) despite the manufacturer saying you shouldn't rely on these tests without getting lab verification and that DOJ used to have standing instructions not to use these tests as evidence...

     
  16. Bobbythegreat

    Bobbythegreat Member

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    End the war on drugs and you won't have this problem.
     
  17. Liberon

    Liberon Rookie

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    You guys have alot of trashy people in Texas..
     
  18. Major

    Major Member

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    Or you could, you know, not use flawed evidence. Seems like a much simpler solution.
     
  19. Bobbythegreat

    Bobbythegreat Member

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    Yeah but I don't see it as a crime so there really shouldn't be any reason to gather evidence in the first place. Ending the war on drugs seems like the simplest solution. Spend that time, money, and energy going after real crime.
     
  20. London'sBurning

    London'sBurning Contributing Member

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    Agreed.
     

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