When Drugs Aren’t Drugs- Part One

The police pull you over and find a suspicious white powder in your car. You swear this powder is for your athlete’s foot. The police believe this powder is cocaine.

You are booked into jail. Bail is set at $25,000. The powder is sent to the DPS lab for further testing. You spend two weeks in jail but the DPS lab report comes back negative. Vindicated, you leave jail, short two weeks of life you will never get back.

Think that never happens? You must not practice criminal defense in Texas.

A similar situation with a client led me to file an open records request with DPS. I asked for documentation of cases in which “drugs” were sent to the DPS lab, tested, and found not to be drugs. Here is a copy of my email I sent to the DPS Public Information Office. (To learn how to send your own Open Records Request, click here).

Please accept this email as an open records requests.

Please send all documentation of DPS lab drug testing in which a substance turned out not to be a controlled substance (including marijuana). Please send all offense/arrest reports for these cases.

Please include Dallas and Kaufman County. Please limit this request to cases from 1/1/2006.

I would also like any training manual for testing controlled substances in the field, and DPS lab testing of substances.

I received 62 cases from Kaufman County, and over 500 from Dallas County!! I am still awaiting the police reports on these cases.

Questions I have-
Were these substances all field tested? Were those field tests positive?
Did the suspects tell the police these were not drugs? Did the cops ignore these pleas?
How long did these suspects sit in jail? What was bail set at?
How many of these tests were for marijuana? In Texas, the police can testify that a substance is marijuana. For other drugs, a lab test is required to confirm the substance is narcotics.

Finally, whenever Dallasnews.com does a story on the horrible conditions in the Dallas jail, there are always a few comments on the lines of “Don’t break the law, and you won’t go to jail!” I wonder what these people would say to the 500 people arrested in these cases?

I’ll update as the story progresses.

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