A college football player's charges for drug possession are being dropped after prosecutors realized, once again, that field chemical tests are terribly inaccurate.
In this case, the substance that the chemical test said was cocaine was actually bird poop.
College Football Player Ticketed for Speeding, Arrested for Cocaine Possession
The incident happened in South Carolina.
On July 31, Shai Werts, a quarterback for Georgia Southern University, was driving to his grandmother's house when he was pulled over by police. They said he was speeding and gave him a traffic ticket for going over 80 miles per hour.
Then the police saw a white blotch on the hood of Werts' car. They conducted not one, but two field chemical tests on the substance. Both of them tested positive for cocaine, which is a Schedule II drug. They arrested him for cocaine possession.
Werts claimed that the substance, which was on the hood of his car, after all, was bird poop.
Drug Possession Charges Get Dropped
Werts was given a university-administered drug test and held out of football practices for two days while the results processed. The drug test came back clean and he was allowed to return to practice.
Drug tests can detect cocaine up to 4 days after it has been ingested, or up to 2 weeks in people who are heavy users.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, reviewed the evidence that was gathered and presented by the police and found them to “lack prosecutorial merit.” Multiple samples taken from the car and tested in the lab did not detect cocaine. As a result, prosecutors decided to drop the drug charges against Werts.
Field Chemical Tests are Notorious for False-Positives
None of this would have happened if the field chemical testing kits that the police used during the traffic stop hadn't come back positive for cocaine.
The problem, though, is that portable testing kits like these are notorious for false-positives. That a cheap, $2 chemical testing kit is so prone to error should surprise no one. That police continue to use them, and prosecutors continue to rely on them as cornerstones in drug cases, should shock and disturb people in Philadelphia.
As shown in a ProPublica investigation, Busted, the chemical testing kit that police use in the field on suspected cocaine samples is especially problematic. That test is nothing more than a sealed plastic bag with a vial of cobalt thiocyanate inside it. Police put the suspected cocaine in the bag, seal it, and break the vial. Cobalt thiocyanate turns blue when it is introduced to cocaine… Or more than 80 other chemical compounds. Some of those other compounds include common household cleaners, acne medications, or methadone. If the police put a dot of acne cream into one of these testing kits, it turns blue and leads to a criminal charge for cocaine possession.