Couple Ends Up In Jail Because Baking Soda Was Mistaken For Cocaine
By Daily Mail
A couple who work for the military and who had never been in trouble with the law went to jail for two months after their bags of baking soda were drug tested and came back positive as cocaine.
Husband Wendell Harvey and wife Gale Griffin of Draper, Utah are truck drivers who have transported explosives for the military for years and have top security clearance, reports KUTV. Harvey is also a former police officer.
But none of that helped them when they were pulled over by police for a routine security check as they were passing through Fort Chaffee, Arkansas on May 8.
The police found three plastic baggies of baking soda in their truck. The couple insisted the white powdered substance was the harmless household staple – but the contents were tested anyway.
The couple were stunned when they were told the powder, which Griffin used on their long hauls for cleaning the truck and body mouth rinsing, was an illegal drug.
‘You have over $300,000 in cocaine,’ Griffin told KUTV that a cop said to her.
‘I told him, ‘I’ve never had two nickels to rub together, are you crazy?” an astonished Griffin told the outlet. ‘Then [the police officer] said, ‘I’ve never had two nickels to rub together either, but now I’m the owner of your truck.’
The couple’s vehicle was confiscated and they were put behind bars, where they stayed for ten weeks, unable to make their $10,000 bail.
‘I felt cut off from reality; it felt very strange – someplace that doesn’t feel like America to me,’ Harvey said.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with [the police]. Something’s wrong and I’m not sure what it is,’ he said.
The pair said that the jail was horrendous, ‘crawling’ with bugs and with cold air blasting continually. Griffin said the experience was ‘enough to make you crazy.’
‘For the first three or four weeks, I just shivered. I didn’t have any socks,’ Griffin said. ‘There were lots of threats and intimidation.’
Chuck Bowen of the Fort Chaffee Police insisted that the field test for the drug came back positive three different times.
‘We’re not chemists,’ he told the outlet. ‘We don’t roll with a chemistry set in the back of a police car.’
But after a public defender insisted on a laboratory test, this time it came back negative.
The cocaine field test, called Scott Reagent Field Test, is used by most law enforcement agencies, said the outlet. It costs $2 and the science behind them reportedly hasn’t changed since the 1970s.
In Las Vegas, a study showed that over three years, 33 percent of field tests were false positives. In Florida, 21 percent of meth tests were shown to be false positive, according to the outlet.
The outlet’s own reporter, Chris Jones, purchased the same tests the police use online, and used it to test a variety of substances, including Comet, cold medicine, and chocolate. Four out of ten came back false positive for drugs.
Salt Lake County Prosecutor Sim Gill said that prosecutors must use more extensive and accurate methods of testing if a case is brought to trial.
However, studies show that 100,000 people plead guilty or are convinced on field tests every year, said KUTV.
‘There are many other cases out there this same way,’ said Greg Parrish of the Arkansas Public Defender’s Office.
Fortunately, Harvey and Griffin were released from jail. Unfortunately, they have been unable to work since the incident because they say their truck suffered major damage while being held by Arkansas authorities and their security clearance was pulled and not yet reinstated.
‘If they did what they did to us, you know – two law abiding citizens, there’s no telling how many mistakes they’ve made,’ says Harvey.