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Could a Cheap Roadside Drug Test Wrongly Send You to Jail?

If a police officer suspects drug possession when they pull you over during a routine traffic stop, they may use a chemical test – right then and there – in order to confirm their suspicions. These drug tests prompt officers to make a quick leap from suspicion to arrest to conviction, and they are frequently used throughout the country.

The problem, however, is that these drugs tests are far from reliable, yet their results may be enough to send innocent people to jail.

The Problem with Field Drug Tests

A chemical test seems simple enough, but in many cases, the tests are improperly administered, defective, or designed to provide a false positive for a number of other substances.

For example, consider the use of cobalt thiocyanate, a chemical that is kept in a tube and turns blue if exposed to cocaine. It costs about $2, and has been around since 1973. According to an article in The New York Times, cocaine is not the only substance that results in a change of color. Cobalt thiocyanate will also turn blue if exposed to 80 different substances, including some over-the-counter medications and household cleaners. Other tests are comprised of more than one tube of chemicals and work only if used in a specific order, and other chemical tests are affected by temperature and light.

The problem is so great that from 2010 to 2013, authorities in Las Vegas found that 33 percent of chemical tests administered resulted in false positives, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The ineffectiveness of the tests is not news. Dating back to 1974, the National Bureau of Standards warned that chemical kits should “not be used as sole evidence for identification of a narcotic or of drug abuse.” Unfortunately, this counsel has not been followed.

Texas Roadside Drug Test Law

If you are pulled over in Texas, you may be asked to submit to a roadside drug test, or to a search of your vehicle. You have the right to say no to both. Police officers cannot search your car without probable cause, and you do not have to consent to a search – in fact, it is usually in your best interest not to do so.

In regard to a roadside drug or alcohol test, you have given your implied consent (see: Chapter 724 of Texas Transportation Code) to Texas authorities already by obtaining a driver’s license. However, you still have the right to refuse, although doing so will likely result in a driver’s license suspension. If you consent to a test and a false positive results, it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Get Help from an Experienced Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney

Police drug tests can be intimidating, especially if you are not familiar with roadside drug test laws in Texas. If you have been wrongfully charged with a crime, such as causing a crash involving personal injury or DWI/DUI,  contact the experienced Dallas attorneys at Kraft & Associates, P.C. We will help you understand how you may be able to get evidence against you thrown out, and how to build a strong defense.


Stacy Webb is a Director at Kraft & Associates, Attorneys at Law, P.C in Dallas, TX and focuses on Immigration and Personal Injury Cases.

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