Wisconsin residents may not be familiar with some newer methods that police officers are using to make drug charge arrests. For example, now that marijuana has become increasingly decriminalized across the country, police are looking for ways to test for the drug in a person’s saliva, which would in theory be similar to a breathalyzer test for alcohol.

Roadside drug tests appear to be unreliable

One increasingly common method that police officers are using to determine if someone is in possession of illegal drugs is to test the substances roadside. An officer does this by taking a small amount of the substance and putting it into a fluid, which will turn a certain color depending on the type of substance it is. If the color indicates that the substance is illegal, an officer can make an arrest.

While studies have said these tests are reliable enough to be used to make an arrest, many people believe they are too inaccurate to be used as evidence at trial. Nonetheless, prosecutors have been using the results of these tests to get defendants to plead guilty to drug possession charges.

Multiple people exonerated for convictions based on roadside tests

In 2017, five people in Nevada had their convictions overturned when a lab determined that a substance in their possession that had tested positive for cocaine with the roadside test was not actually an illegal substance upon further analysis. This followed news of five similar exonerations in Oregon and over 250 in Texas. It’s possible there could be more exonerations, but officers often destroy the roadside tests after a person pleads guilty.

Avoiding a trap

Though Green Bay and Brown County in Wisconsin have taken measures to lower penalties for marijuana, residents should not let their guard down if they are accused of using or possessing marijuana or harder drugs. A test that an officer performs on the spot may not actually hold up in court, as evidenced by the fact that multiple judges have refused to allow prosecutors to introduce these tests as evidence at trial. If you are detained by a police officer, reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible and before making a statement.