Pubdate: Sat, 13 Aug 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Orange County Register


Roadside drug tests can be a good tool for police to determine 
whether someone has broken law and potentially poses a threat to 
others, but they can also get you locked up for eating a glazed donut.

A Florida man is suing the Orlando Police Department after he was 
arrested on officers' mistaken claims that he was in possession of 
crystal methamphetamine. During a traffic stop, the officers noticed 
a few whitish flakes on the floorboard of Daniel Rushing's car and 
alleged that they were crystal meth. "I recognized through my 11 
years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the 
substance to be some sort of narcotic," one of the officers wrote in 
a report. In fact, it was just some crumbs from the glaze of a Krispy 
Kreme doughnut Mr. Rushing had consumed.

But a field drug test nonetheless indicated that the doughnut glaze 
tested positive for crystal meth, leading to Mr. Rushing being 
handcuffed, arrested and strip searched at the county jail. Several 
weeks later, a state crime lab test exonerated him, but not before he 
unjustly spent 10 hours locked up in jail and had to post a $2,500 bond.

Such occurrences are shockingly common. These pages discussed several 
other such cases  including the Minnesota man who spent more than two 
months in jail because a bag of vitamins in his car tested positive 
for amphetamines in a police field drug test, and another Florida man 
who was arrested after the mints he was chewing tested positive for 
crack cocaine - in an editorial in January.

A 2009 Marijuana Policy Project study found that such tests yielded 
false positive results 70 percent of the time in a test of 43 
candies, over-the-counter medicines, plants and other harmless 
substances. A six-month investigation done by Fox 13/TV in Tampa, 
Fla., found similar weaknesses in the test results. "We watched as 
aspirin, cough medicine, coffee and spices like oregano - and even 
air - tested positive for illegal drugs," reporter Gloria Gomez said.

To make matters worse, Congress is considering legislation that would 
allow police to utilize a field test to collect genetic material from 
detainees and suspects. Under the Rapid DNA Act, S.2348, which the 
Senate passed by unanimous consent in June, officers could obtain DNA 
evidence from a cheek swab and the results would be checked against 
the FBI's central DNA database.

This raises troubling privacy concerns, which should give members in 
the House great pause when they consider the bill. We should not be 
encouraging police to take DNA evidence from everyone they encounter 
and building a massive biometric database, particularly with evidence 
from innocent citizens.

Then there are the accuracy issues. Police officers are not 
scientists, but even if the Rapid DNA system is easy enough for 
anyone to use, experience with the roadside drug tests has shown that 
the results can be far from reliable, resulting in the incarceration 
of innocent people. Until greater accuracy of such testing can be 
verified, Congress and local police should not even consider 
authorizing or using them.
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