When Minnesota field tests identify other substances as illegal drugs

In November, a Minnesota man was pulled over for leaving a grocery store parking lot without turning on his headlights. According to Raw Story, police ended up searching his vehicle and found a bag of white powder. Law enforcement conducted a field test, which revealed that the substance may have been an amphetamine. As a drug crime lawyer in Minneapolis may have seen, findings such as these can lead to felony drug charges.

This man, who claimed he had done nothing wrong, was charged with two felony counts of drug possession and was detained in jail for three months. However, in-depth testing revealed that the white powder was actually legally available vitamins, and not drugs. The man was released, but he will never get back those three months of his life.

Testing gone wrong

Unfortunately, field drug tests can often produce unreliable results. For example, the Star Tribune reported in 2011 that a Minnesota woman crossing into Canada was arrested when an old bottle of motor oil tested positive for heroin. After spending 12 days in jail, the woman was finally let go because a Canadian laboratory determined the bottle only contained old motor oil.

A recent report from Fox News details how unreliable field drug tests can be. One reason for a false positive, according to a toxicologist, is that the tests simply change color instead of actually identifying substances. Another report from StoptheDrugWar.org reveals the following:

  • Newspaper, chocolate and natural soap can test positive for marijuana.
  • Oregano can test positive for cocaine.
  • Poppy seeds can appear as opiates.

Ibuprofen, cold medicine, diet pills, sleep aids and a host of other items can trigger a positive field test. StoptheDrugWar.org notes that in one study, researchers found that 70 percent of field tests done in a controlled environment generated false positives.

Defending a false positive

Any drug crime lawyer in Minneapolis is aware that the use of faulty drug testing violates U.S. Supreme Court rulings that aim to protect citizens from experiencing wrongful prosecutions and conviction.

False positives are not restricted to field tests, as they can occur in urine and blood testing as well. People wishing to defend drug charges are wise to do so. Testing positive for drugs can prevent someone from obtaining employment and result in hefty fines and even time in prison.

Until law enforcement discontinue the use of such unreliable testing, many more people may be subjected to wrongful arrests and convictions that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. Anyone with questions on this matter should consult with a drug crime lawyer in Minneapolis.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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