Bucks County has recently decided to amp up field drug testing in an attempt to reduce the backlog of lab tests for preliminary hearings. These tests will be used by police at DUI stops to immediately get results and then present the results as evidence in preliminary hearings. Although the official lab results are required for formal hearings, prosecutors in Bucks County have stated that these tests are good for the justice system, because they allow defendants to get a preliminary hearing much faster.

Since longer wait times can delay the justice process, it is being hailed by law enforcement as a good step to ensure that suspects are not held without a set bail for too long. While this currently is only being done in Bucks County courts, it is likely to spread to other Philadelphia-area counties. The Philadelphia Police Department already has made field drug tests a part of standard procedure, and if this process frees the backlog in Bucks County, other similar departments may follow suit. Other courts systems have indicated an interest in the outcome of these cases.

False Positives: Risks of Field Drug Tests

However, there remains the question of how accurate these tests are. After all, a false positive in a field test could potentially land an innocent person in jail for more time if a judge is presented with false evidence in the preliminary hearing. In Lehigh County, a couple has already spent time in jail due to a false positive on a drug test for a white substance that ended up being homemade soap. Although rare, one night in jail for a false positive on a field drug test is too many.

Thus far, law enforcement in the Philadelphia area does not seem very concerned that this may happen. Morrisville police Chief George McClay, a former lieutenant in the Philadelphia police force, states that he has never encountered a single false positive over decades of using the tests in the city. Furthermore, Matt Weintraub, chief of prosecution for Bucks County believes that the safeguards in place are more than sufficient to avoid any serious problems arising from false positives on a mobile drug test.

Still, other Philadelphia counties will be watching to see how this process affects drug trials to decide if it could be an option in their own jurisdictions. After all, there could be serious legal issues associated with false positives on these tests. Any person falsely imprisoned based on faulty evidence could sue and judges could overturn the practice. If it is successful, however, Pennsylvania residents should expect to see this practice spread to other counties.

If you have been arrested based on evidence from a field drug test, you need the help of an experienced Philadelphia DUI lawyer to defend your rights. Contact us at Fienman Defense today to see how we can help you build a case and fight the charges pending against you.

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