Rebecca Shaw spent five months in jail because a sheriff’s deputy conducted a field test that could not tell the difference between vitamins and oxycodone pills.
To make matters worse, it took a year for the state crime lab to test the pills and clear Shaw’s name.
“He does the field drug test and because it tests positive, nothing else mattered,” Shaw’s attorney, Patrick LeDuc, said of a Pasco County, Fla., deputy. “It didn’t matter she had no prior record, it didn’t matter she was out of gas.”
Shaw’s nightmare began in September 2015 when her car ran out of gas. A deputy received permission to search her vehicle, found the pills, ran the test and arrested her, The Miami Herald reported.
“He said, ‘They don’t look like vitamins. They look like oxycodone,’” Shaw said of the deputy, according to Fox 13 in Tampa.
She added, “It felt like my whole life was over. It was terrible. My kids were devastated. I was away for five months. I cried constantly.”
She was arrested on drug trafficking charges, and placed in jail for five months. She stayed there until her husband was able to raise $5,000 in bail money. It took another seven months for a Florida crime lab to retest the pills and discover they were vitamins. That caused prosecutors to finally drop the charges.
“We have men and women sitting in jail languishing if they cannot make bond awaiting that scientific testing that should be performed immediately,” Hillsborough Circuit Judge Gregory Holder told Fox 13.
Shaw is just one of many people who were jailed because of faulty field tests. Fox 13 went to a lab and had the kits themselves tested.
“We watched as aspirin, cough medicine, coffee and spices like oregano … tested positive for illegal drugs,” Fox 13 reporter Gloria Gomez reported. “These are the same kits used by law enforcement all over the country to make drug arrests.”
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