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How often do roadside drug tests turn up false positives?

False-positive roadside drug tests can sometimes lead to wrongful convictions for Atlanta metro and North Georgia residents. Arming yourself with knowledge about how common false positives are and how they can be avoided may help you if you’re ever involved in an incident.

Are roadside drug tests reliable?

These roadside drug tests, also known as field tests, are commonly used by police officers to quickly determine whether an unknown substance is an illegal drug. They are cheap tests and can often establish probable cause, allowing officers to make arrests. However, they do not necessarily prove drugs are present at the scene and many courts refuse to accept them in drug crime cases.

How do these field tests work?

An unknown substance is combined with chemicals in a small pouch. If the chemicals change color, illegal substances are present. However, some legal substances will also make the chemicals change color, leaving these tests vulnerable to misinterpretation.

The tests are prone to error and this is well-known among prosecutors and police officers, yet they are still used daily. This means that being charged with a crime you didn’t commit is a true possibility.

What happens when someone is arrested for a drug crime?

In many cases, victims of false-positive field tests plead guilty to avoid jail time or other unwanted punishment. They may end up serving community service, but the drug crime conviction is still on their record.

Many jurisdictions have realized that these field tests result in more false positives than should be acceptable. In cities around the country, drug convictions are being overturned after further analysis of the substance in question proved that it was not an illegal drug. Though this is good news, the damage to the wrongfully convicted has already occurred.

When you are wrongfully arrested for a drug crime

It may be necessary to consult a skilled defense attorney who is well-versed in drug crimes if you are arrested. An aggressive defense attorney can speak on your behalf and possibly even require further testing be done to avoid a conviction.