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The Source: Innacurate Roadside Drug Tests Cost Texans Their Freedom

David Sleight/ProPublica

A new ProPublica investigation has raised serious questions about the accuracy of roadside drug tests commonly used by Texas law enforcement. The investigation shows that the over-reliance by law enforcement on these tests has resulted in many innocent people pleading guilty.

The issues of accuracy are known among federal law enforcement, and stricter guidelines on use and warning labels about "false positives" were issued more than a decade ago, but people continue to be busted based on these tests.

The investigation does a deep-dive into Harris County, Texas, but the use of the inexpensive tests are nationwide, including here in San Antonio. The Bexar County Sheriff's Department confirmed the use of these tests, and the San Antonio Police Department said they believed this was the chemical in their tests as well. 

The Bexar County District Attorney's office sent the following statement "Our office does not rely solely on a presumptive drug test. We do not indict or plea a case without a confirmation report from the Bexar County Crime Lab."


Ryan Gabrielson, reporter for ProPublica covering the U.S. Justice System.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org