The results of a roadside drug testing kit often serve as cause to arrest someone on suspicion of drug possession. Law enforcement in New York use these cheap and fast kits to perform a preliminary chemical analysis on suspicious substances. They are easy for officers to use and enable them to make arrests. An advanced laboratory may later confirm the results, but sometimes defendants plead guilty to charges based on the unconfirmed roadside results.
No regulation and little training
The manufacturers of roadside drug testing kits have no regulatory standards to meet concerning the performance of their products. The police and corrections officers who use these tests lack training and have little understanding of their potential for false positives. Various court cases in which defense lawyers questioned law enforcement officers about their training revealed that personnel received minimal training and were not knowledgeable about their accuracy rates.
High rate of false positives
Legal cases that challenged the use of roadside drug testing results to convict people on drug offenses uncovered a substantial failure rate. Lab testing of results originally obtained through the fast tests overturned positive readings in 38% of samples. Many everyday substances, like chocolate, can cause the testing kits to deliver false positives.
Due to the inaccuracy of roadside drug testing kits, many courts have determined that their results do not qualify as admissible evidence. Across the country, the National Registry of Exonerations recorded 131 cases of courts overturning drug convictions over a 10-year period once lab results showed that roadside test results had been wrong. However, people remain vulnerable to conviction for drug possession due to pleading guilty instead of moving forward with a more rigorous evaluation of the suspicious substance by a lab.