Viewpoint

The case of the doughnut crumbs and a bad drug test kit

Frank Cerabino
Frank Cerabino

You may want to be extra careful when eating glazed doughnuts in the car.

If you drop a few crumbs, you could end up going to jail.

It happened to Dan Rushing, 64, a Central Florida man who was pulled over for driving 42 mph in a 30 mph zone.

During the traffic stop, the Orlando police officer asked for permission to search his car, and during the search the officer found four doughnut crumbs on the floor in front of the driver’s seat.

The crumbs, Rushing explained, came from a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut he had eaten while driving.

But the officer suspected the glazed bits found on the floor were crystal methamphetamine.

“Rushing stated that he has never done any drugs in his life,” the police report said.

The police, though, had the damning evidence right there with the help of a roadside drug testing kit.

“I recognized, through my 11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer, the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” the arresting officer wrote.

Rushing, who was carrying his state-licensed concealed weapon at the time, was charged with possession of amphetamine with a weapon, and held on $2,500 bond.

He was strip-searched in jail and confined there for more than 10 hours. Weeks later, his case was quietly dropped after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined the two roadside drug tests created false-positive results.

It happens too often.

An investigative report published last month by ProPublica found scores of people across the country are jailed and convicted every year based on faulty readings from frequently unreliable $2 roadside drug kits.

Often, these kits have been discredited enough to make them inadmissible as evidence in a trial. But the majority of drug possession cases are handled with plea bargains, not trials.

And these plea bargains are made before these faulty roadside drug tests are verified in a lab. So if you’re too poor to post bail, the fastest way to get out of jail is to ignore your innocence and plead guilty to illegal drug possession.

ProPublica looked at 300 drug cases in Houston, where the defendants were wrongly arrested and convicted due to false-positive readings on the roadside drug tests. In 57 percent of those cases, the jailed and innocent defendants pleaded guilty to drug possession within the first eight days they were jailed.

Some people opt for a bogus criminal record over waiting in jail and hoping that the justice system finds the error.

So be careful out there.

Don’t eat in your car, and if you do, vacuum it regularly. To paraphrase McGruff the Crime Dog: If you take a bite out of a non-crime, clean it up.

Eating glazed doughnuts already comes with its own set of perils. Turning you into a criminal shouldn’t be another one.

Email: frank_cerabino@pbpost.com.

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