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Uncovering the uncertainty of roadside drug tests

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2024 | Drug Charges

Throughout the year, countless people face drug charges in Maryland and other states. A recent report shows that around the country, close to 30,000 people might be wrongfully arrested and put in jail because of unreliable roadside field tests for drugs.

How roadside drug tests work

Roadside drug tests change colors when certain compounds found in drugs interact with them. However, individuals facing drug charges discover that these testing kits don’t only check for illicit drugs. They react to a variety of substances, including cotton candy, bird feces and even the glaze from a glazed doughnut.

The impact on people

Each year, these tests lead to wrongful arrests for drug possession, affecting up to 30,000 people. This number is staggering, especially as you consider that many undergo fear and uncertainty when facing a drug charge. People get arrested, booked, jailed and even charged based on kits that produce false positives. Although the tests weren’t designed to provide conclusive evidence of drug presence, people accept plea bargains when presented with this flawed evidence of drug charges, which allows them to avoid a court trial.

Use in prison

The prison system uses these rapid-response drug tests to detect drug use among inmates. Despite clear warnings that results should be confirmed by external labs, prisons rely on them. Consequently, thousands of inmates face unfair punishments, including loss of parole hearings, solitary confinement and revoked visitation rights.

Law enforcement and other entities nationwide are gradually reducing their reliance on these rapid drug tests. With time, it is hoped that fewer wrongful arrests and convictions will be made, leading to better outcomes for everyone.