A woman in Monroe County is suing the police after spending months in jail for a wrongful arrest causing her to miss important events in life.
Dasha Fincher got arrested on New Year's Eve in 2016 after police found cotton candy balls that showed a false positive for methamphetamine.
The lawsuit against the two arresting officers and the roadside drug test manufacturer got filed in a Georgia federal court on Thursday. It relates to the prison stretch she served that caused her to miss important things in her life as she said:
“My daughter had a miscarriage, so I wasn’t there for that.’ ‘My twin grandsons were born. I missed that.”
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According to the police incident report, Fincher was ‘shaking’ and ‘very anxious’ when she got pulled over. The search of her vehicle found a large plastic bag containing a ‘blue crystal-like substance.
Fincher told police it was a bag of cotton candy, but after the positive given by the roadside field test for crystal meth, police arrested her and charged her with meth possession and trafficking.
Being unable to pay her bond that got set at $1 million she spent nearly four months in jail. In March 2017 the bag got tested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and concluded that the bag of balls was indeed only cotton candy.
All charges against Dasha got dropped four weeks later on April 18, 2017, and now she is asking for punitive damages and court fees for the wrongful arrest.
According to Dasha’s lawsuit, the specific type of drug test the police used has a history of false results, and the blue food coloring on the cotton candy balls likely caused the result.
In a shockingly similar case, 31-year-old Joseph Burrell from Mankato, Minnesota, Joseph Burrell got pulled over in a grocery store parking lot by police for not having his headlights on.
During a search of his vehicle police found a bag that contained blue powder, which once tested with the field test showed positive for containing amphetamine.
Just like Dasha he got arrested and spent almost three months in jail after failing to pay bail that got set at $250,000. Shortly before the start of his trial in February 2015. More thorough testing at a crime lab proved the blue powder to contain vitamins and not meth and prosecutors dropped the case as a result.
False positives on drug tests can have far-reaching effects in other ways too. A writer from Palm Springs, California, Maggie Downs, was 42 weeks pregnant with her first child when she tested positive for methamphetamine.
Maggie insisted that she had never taken any medication containing the substance and had been eating and living healthy throughout her pregnancy. But due to the positive result of the test, the hospital was bound to report such the incident to Child Protective Services.
The cause of the false positive got found to be triggered by Maggie’s inhaler. Medication for asthma is one of the few chemicals that can give a positive to methamphetamine in your body.
Difficult weeks followed the birth of her son as Maggie tried convincing hospital staff of her competence and fitness to be a mother, in order not to lose her son. Much to the relief of Maggie matters got resolved, and she could finally take her baby home.
The false positives in these three cases could have irrevocably changed their lives forever. The stakes are high, and care should be taken as to the accuracy of the results.