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Baking soda tested positive for cocaine, sent 2 to jail

Some Texas motorists have found out that law enforcement officers will sometimes use roadside drug test kits to obtain preliminary results for substances they suspect might be illegal drugs. As a case in Arkansas shows, there are major problems with the reliability of these test kits.

In the case, two truck drivers were transporting goods to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas. They were stopped at the gates for a routine inspection. During the inspection, officers found a white powdery substance in bags inside of the truck. One of the drivers told the officers that it was baking soda, and she said she carries baking soda with her because of its usefulness.

The officers suspected that it was cocaine, and a preliminary drug test returned multiple positive results. Both truck drivers were arrested. They spent two months in jail, lost their truck to impound and lost their jobs. When the lab test results came back on the substance, it turned out to be baking soda just as the woman had said. The problem with false positives is not just with cocaine tests. In Florida, authorities have said that 21 percent of all of the substances that have returned positive results for methamphetamine using drug test kits are found to be negative when they are sent to the lab.

Drug offenses carry substantial penalties if a conviction is obtained, including, as this case shows, employment consequences in addition to potential incarceration. Besides questioning the results of a drug test, a strategy that is sometimes used by criminal defense attorneys representing clients who have been taken into custody for possession is to challenge the constitutionality of the search that led to the seizure of the drugs.

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Houston, TX 77008

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