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How Reliable are Field Narcotics Test Kits?

 Posted on November 09, 2021 in Drug Charges

TX defense lawyerIt is a common beginning to many Texas drug possession prosecutions - during a traffic stop, a police officer spots a substance he thinks could be an illegal narcotic. The suspected contraband could be something as suspicious as a small bag of white powder, or as mundane as an unidentifiable sticky substance on an object in the back seat. The officer reaches for an inexpensive field test kit, and the results show that the substance is indeed a narcotic - much to the surprise of the driver.

Texas police officers rely heavily on these field test kits to back up their suspicions in order to make arrests and kick off criminal prosecutions. However, these tests sometimes produce false positives, sending innocent Texans to jail. If you have been charged with a drug crime, finding a strong attorney should be your first priority right now. Texas drug laws are notoriously strict.

How Do Field Test Kits Result in False Convictions?

Police officers across the state rely on field test kits when they are unsure whether a substance they have found is a narcotic. Even for the most qualified officers, it is very difficult to accurately identify some substances without using some kind of scientific testing. Field test kits seem like the perfect solution - they cost little and give officers something objective and demonstrable to go on. Unfortunately, these field test kits are far from perfect.

In 2015, the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission looked into convictions based on field test kit evidence. The commission revealed over 300 convictions in the Houston area alone that were based on inaccurate test results. While the exact statistics on field drug test reliability are unknown, the message is clear that these kits are too unreliable to base a conviction on.

One of the problems here is that many of those defendants had pled guilty despite knowing that the test was wrong and they were innocent. Innocent defendants who plead guilty often do so out of a belief that they would be convicted at trial - in this case, based on a faulty test. Prosecutors may offer plea bargains that encourage even defendants who are not guilty to plead guilty because they see it as their best option for avoiding harsh sentencing, like jail time.

If you are in this situation, a qualified attorney may be able to help you contest the field test kit results and potentially have your case dismissed. Never enter a guilty plea without first speaking with a lawyer you trust.

Contact a Dallas County Drug Possession Defense Attorney

At the Law Offices of Biederman & Burleson, P.L.L.C., we understand how quickly a simple traffic stop can lead to serious criminal charges based on a misunderstanding or a faulty test kit. Our experienced McKinney drug possession defense lawyers will evaluate your case and determine whether challenging the results of a field test kit could help you. Contact us at 469-333-3333 for a free consultation.





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