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Legal troubles can follow false positive police tests

Back in November, we wrote a post about how efforts to relax marijuana laws in New Jersey could face an uphill battle. One of the biggest problems proponents of such a measure may have to deal with is that right now, there is no reliable test for determining how much THC – the substance in marijuana that causes impairment – it takes to affect a person. If no standard can be set, allegations of driving while impaired may deserve to be challenged.

But there may be an even bigger and more present danger requiring our attention – especially since it has already been shown to result in unwarranted criminal charges. The thing about such situations is that not only are the accusations unexpected and perhaps unfounded, but those on the receiving end of such claims can suffer for them, even if charges are dropped. A record of arrest can be as damaging as a criminal conviction.

This is brought to mind in light of a couple of stories that recently made news. In one, a married couple who happen to make a living in trucking saw that life hugely disrupted for several months after a routine traffic stop. As reported by NewsChannel9.com, police found a baggie of white powder that cheap field testing equipment indicated was drugs. It turned out to be baking soda.

In the second, a man in Texas wound up behind bars for days. Authorities there had stopped him for failing to signal a turn and asked to search his car. That resulted in the discovery of a sock full of something that cheap tests indicated was methamphetamine. It was cat litter that his father had used as a way to absorb moisture and keep the windshield from fogging up.

Court documents show the case as dismissed, but that still leaves the man in the position of having to spend time, energy and money clearing the record and restoring his name.

To his credit, the man says he doesn't blame police for arresting him, but he suggests we would all be better served if police didn't opt for cheap, mistake-prone field equipment.

Who could disagree with that?

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