Sometimes drug evidence listed by local authorities as methamphetamine can turn out to be something else. This recent story from the Orlando Sentinel describes how one man got arrested due to this type of mistake.
Daniel Rushing treats himself to a Krispy Kreme doughnut every other Wednesday. He used to eat them in his car.
Not since a pair of Orlando police officers pulled him over, spotted four tiny flakes of glaze on his floorboard and arrested him, saying they were pieces of crystal methamphetamine.
The officers did two roadside drug tests and both came back positive for the illegal substance, according to his arrest report.
He was handcuffed, arrested, taken to the county jail and strip searched, he said.
A state crime lab, however, did another test several weeks later and cleared him.
"It was incredible," he said. "It feels scary when you haven't done anything wrong and get arrested. … It's just a terrible feeling."
Rushing, 64, of Orlando was arrested about 1 p.m. Dec. 11 at Robinson Street and Parramore Avenue. He had just dropped off a neighbor at the hospital for a chemotherapy session — something he did every Friday, he said — then went to the 7-Eleven store at 938 W. Colonial Drive to give another friend a ride home, he said.
She's elderly, a church friend and works there.
The officer who made the arrest, Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkins, an eight-year department veteran, had staked out the 7-Eleven because of complaints about drug activity, she wrote in her report.
She pulled over Rushing because he failed to come to a full stop before pulling out of the convenience store parking lot and because he was driving 42 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to her report.
When Rushing opened his wallet, she saw that he had a concealed weapons permit, she wrote. He told her that he had a gun, and she asked him to step out of his car, a small Chevy.
That's when she spotted "a rock like substance on the floor board where his feet were," she wrote.
"I recognized through my eleven years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic," she wrote.
She asked for permission to search his vehicle, the report says, and Rushing agreed.
"I didn't have anything to hide," he said. "I'll never let anyone search my car again."
Riggs-Hopkins and other officers spotted three other pieces of the suspicious substance in his car, according to the report.
"I kept telling them, 'That's … glaze from a doughnut. … They tried to say it was crack cocaine at first, then they said, 'No, it's meth, crystal meth.'"
His arrest report confirms that he tried to tell them.
"Rushing stated that the substance is sugar from a Krispie Kreme Donut that he ate," Riggs-Hopkins wrote.
She booked him into the county jail on a charge of possession of methamphetamine with a firearm. He was locked up for about 10 hours before his release on $2,500 bond, he said.
According to FDLE, an analyst in its Orlando crime lab did not try to identify what police found in his car. She only checked to determine whether it was an illegal drug and confirmed that it was not.
Three days later, the State Attorney's Office in Orlando filed paperwork, saying that it was dropping the case.
Rushing, who retired after 25 years as an Orlando parks department employee, has hired a lawyer and is asking the city to pay him damages.
"I got arrested for no reason at all," he said.
He has not spelled out how much money he wants, but attorney William Ruffier says he expects to file suit next month.
The Orlando Police Department did not explain why the two drug field tests that Riggs-Hopkins conducted were wrong.
When asked how many other road-side drug tests have produced false positive results, an OPD spokeswoman wrote, "At this time, we have no responsive records. … There is no mechanism in place for easily tracking the number of, or results of, field drug testing."
FDLE spokeswoman Molly Best wrote that her agency has no information about the prevalence of false-positive field drug tests.
The New York Times reported on July 7 that its review of FDLE data showed that 21 percent of the time, drug evidence that was listed by local authorities as methamphetamine turned out to be something else.
In its statement, OPD described the arrest as a lawful one.
If you have been accused of a drug crime, call me, Ron Chapman at 561-832-4348 or visit my West Palm Beach law office online. I am a criminal defense attorney with years of experience and can help defend your rights. Call today so we can begin to discuss your case.
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