Police Use Faulty Drug Tests To Convict Suspects, Report Says

A new ProPublica report indicates that police and prosecutors across the nation are putting innocent people behind bars based on flawed drug screenings.


A report released by ProPublica has revealed that police and prosecutors are regularly using cheap drug tests known to provide false results in convicting drug offenders.

The $2 roadside tests “help” officers quickly learn if someone they suspect is actually under the influence. However, they are fully aware that the tests are unreliable.

False results from these tests have sent countless innocent people to jail.

According to the New York Times, these tests come in two types. One uses a single tube of a chemical called cobalt thiocyanate which turns blue when exposed to cocaine; however, the chemical reacts the same way when it’s exposed to other elements including many common household cleaners.

The other kind of test uses three tubes which the officer must break in a specific order to rule out everything but the drug, but if the tubes are broken in the wrong order the results can be skewed.

Other uncontrollable factors that could lead to inaccurate results include lighting, sun glare, and unfavorable weather conditions.

Furthermore, ProPublica’s report indicates that many officers misinterpret “the ambiguous instructions” to conduct the test which also often leads to false positives.

Adding to this atrocity, many major U.S. cities accept guilty plea deals based solely on the results of these flawed drug tests including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Seattle, and Tampa.

Many of the innocent people who plead guilty do so out of fear of facing significant jail time. By succumbing to the charges instead of fighting them, they are tarnishing their criminal records which last a lifetime.

ProPublica’s in-depth report offers insight into how many innocent people sit behind bars all thanks to a flawed system that no one has been successful in changing. 

Banner Photo Credit: Twitter @LeaflyNews

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