California Bill Aims to Limit Use of Roadside Drug Testing Kits

California Bill Aims to Limit Use of Roadside Drug Testing Kits

California State Sen. Scott Wiener hosts an event in San Francisco on Oct. 23, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

3/20/2024

Updated: 3/21/2024

A California bill proposed in January could limit the use of color-based drug test kits used during traffic stops as critics argue the tests are often inaccurate and can result in wrongful convictions.
“With accurate, scientific alternatives available, there is no reason to rely on junk colorimetric tests to make arrests when a suspicious substance is discovered in the field,” said San Francisco-based Sen. Scott Wiener in a Jan. 9 press release.
Senate Bill 912, the Requiring Objective and Accurate Drug Testing (ROAD Testing) Act, would not prohibit the use of such tests but would prevent them from being used as the basis of an arrest without additional evidence.
“By preventing the improper use of these inaccurate tests, SB 912 eliminates the use of what appears to be the nation’s leading cause of wrongful convictions from the California criminal legal system,” the Democrat’s press release says.
Mr. Wiener cited a recent report by the University of Pennsylvania’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, which found color-based tests, known as colorimetric tests, are the nation’s leading known cause of wrongful conviction. According to the report, the tests can have a false positive rate as high as 38 percent with substances like cotton candy, powdered milk, sugar, lidocaine and folic acid vitamins all known to produce positive results.
Some jurisdictions across California have already abandoned the tests for more accurate “lab-standard” handheld devices, including the Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Tracy police departments; the Madera, Kings, and Siskiyou county sheriffs; and the California Highway Patrol (CHP), according to the recent announcement.
For others still using the tests, there are about 4,000 people wrongfully arrested of the estimated 216,000 held each year on drug charges in California, because of inaccurate results from the colorimetric tests, officials said.
“Bogus drug tests like these undermine basic principles of justice and fairness. The use of these wildly inaccurate drug tests — already abandoned by a number of major law enforcement agencies — is unacceptable now that the risk of wrongful conviction has been confirmed,” Mr. Wiener said.
The issue isn’t exclusive to California, with some states such as Georgia using results from colorimetric tests to establish evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. With most criminal cases resolved through plea deals, inaccurate results mean innocent people could be pleading guilty to the possession of illegal drugs, according to the press release.
The bill passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and was re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations on March 12, where it waits to be heard.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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