If you’ve ever been pulled over in Texas on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI), you probably know that the officer may request to search your vehicle. What you may not know is that any field tests an officer uses to establish probable cause for an arrest could land you in jail on much more serious charges.
Additionally, in many cases, field tests have proven largely unreliable. When it comes to those used for roadside drug testing, the tests–which cost in the neighborhood of $2 each–are often so inaccurate that they aren’t allowed to see the inside of a Texas courtroom.
131 Texas Convictions Dating to 2004 Have Been Overturned
Inaccurate roadside drug testing can be used for leverage to coerce an admission of guilt or a confession during a plea deal, often resulting in a wrongful DWI conviction of an innocent person.
In 2014, the Harris County District Attorney began an audit of 456 Texas drug possession convictions and related test results. The audit exposed numerous flaws with roadside drug testing, lawful arrests, and resultant plea deals. The charges in the 456 cases ultimately resulted in the majority of the accused accepting felony and misdemeanor plea deals before any lab test verifications of the inaccurate field test results were performed.
According to the New York Times and ProPublica, more than 200 wrongful drug convictions in Harris County alone resulted from faulty roadside testing. In 131 of these cases, the convictions have since been overturned–while another 100 of these cases are currently under review for dismissal.
The fact is, people are often too scared during an arrest and any pre-trial plea bargaining to request verification of lab results before admitting to crimes for which they may not be guilty.
Prosecutors Will Use Inadmissible Evidence to Coerce a Plea Deal
During the stressful time of an arrest, citizens are often presented with a plea deal offer based on a combination of inadmissible evidence, current charges, and a history of past arrests and convictions.
While the information used in a plea deal may not be enough to establish guilt in a court of law, it is often more than enough to scare a citizen into agreeing to a plea bargain in order to avoid longer jail time and stiffer sentencing. Before accepting any deals or offering an admission of guilt, an arrestee should request that a reputable crime lab verifies any field test results–and get an experienced attorney involved to ensure that their Constitutional rights aren’t being violated during the process.
If you or someone you know has been subject to a roadside field test that has led to an arrest, charges, or a plea deal, the test should be verified by a crime lab immediately, and any convictions should be evaluated by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Clancy & Clancy Attorneys at Law for a confidential review of your case.