It’s New Year’s Eve. You’re driving along the highway feeling wonderful. Then it happens. You look in your rear view mirror and see flashing police lights. Your heart starts pumping faster as you quickly pull over, trying to determine why Officer Friendly wants to have this encounter. The officer who approaches your car will later inform you that he stopped you for having dark window tint. Before that, he approaches your car and sees a large open plastic bag. He immediately seizes it believing it contains drugs. You immediately inform the officer that the blue substance is cotton candy. The cop thinks it’s Methamphetamine, also known as “Meth” and/or “Crystal Meth”. Can you be arrested under these circumstances?
In a word, “Yes!” Unfortunately, the hypothetical described above mirrors the facts that led to the unfortunate arrest of a woman in Georgia recently. Dasha Fincher, a Monroe, Georgia resident pleaded with the officer before she was arrested. “It’s cotton candy! I swear!” The officer performed a roadside field drug test on the blue substance. The test came back positive for Meth. Her nightmare began.
She was finally released after lab tests confirmed what she had told the officers on the scene. The blue substance in the bag wasn’t an illegal drug at all. The charges were dropped a month later.
So I know you’re wondering, why did this happen? Well, the colossal screw up by law enforcement is detailed in the lawsuit that Ms. Fincher filed in federal court after her harrowing ordeal. She is suing the cops who arrested her along with the company that manufactured the roadside drug test. She alleges that the cops violated her civil rights as a result of their “reckless” conduct. Apparently, the officers weren’t trained in identifying street drugs. Furthermore, they had no training in administering the roadside field test that was used to test the cotton candy. She also sued the manufacturers of the test, Sirchie Acquisitions, a North Carolina based company. According to the lawsuit, the roadside drug test called “Nark II” has a history of false positive test results. What likely triggered the false positive test result was the blue food coloring used in the cotton candy.
This is some scary stuff. Four months in jail, labeled a drug trafficker, all because of cotton candy? This case serves to remind us of how important the presumption of innocence is. Someone may appear to be definitely “100% guilty,” but actually be “Snow White innocent.” Also, it reminds us that law enforcement officers can make mistakes, like any other professionals. Unfortunately, when they make mistakes, the impact, as indicated in this scenario, can be devastating.
I hope that Ms. Fincher’s lawsuit is successful. There’s no room in the criminal justice arena for faulty tests administered by untrained cops. Moving forward, I truly hope lessons have been learned by the “powers that be” and that this doesn’t happen to anyone, especially to a sweet innocent citizen like Ms. Fincher, whose only crime was liking cotton candy.
ONE ADDITIONAL BONUS NOTE
While cops claimed Ms. Fincher’s vehicle was initially stopped because the tint on her car window was too dark, they later admitted that the windows were actually legal.