Woman Sues After Faulty Drug Test Mistakes Cotton Candy For Meth

By Keri Blakinger 12/03/18

The Georgia woman spent four months in jail because of a faulty roadside drug test mistook her cotton candy for meth.

woman eating cotton candy which was mistaken for meth by faulty drug test

A Georgia woman has filed suit after spending almost four months in jail following a faulty roadside drug test that wrongly flagged a baggie of blue cotton candy as crystal meth, according to USA Today.

Dasha Fincher’s federal legal claim, filed Thursday, targets the county commissioners, the deputies who arrested her and the company that makes the test.

The arrest that started it all stemmed from a traffic stop on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Two deputies pulled over Fincher and her boyfriend after spotting dark window tints on their car – though authorities later admitted dark window tints are actually legal.

Police later wrote that the couple seemed nervous, even though they handed over their IDs and agreed to a search of the car. During that search, the lawmen found a plastic baggie with something blue inside. 

One of the deputies did a roadside test on the hood of the car – and told her he’d found methamphetamine.

“I knew it was cotton candy,” she told the New York Times, “and for him to come back and say it was meth, I really didn’t know what to say.”

For close to the next four months, Fincher was held in the county jail on $1 million bail, missing family events – like the birth of her grandsons. 

“It seemed like everything was going on and I wasn’t there,” she told the Times. “I wasn’t there for my family when they needed me.”

Then, on March 22 a crime lab finally realized there were no drugs in the bag. But it wasn’t until the following month that the results were finally forwarded to local prosecutors, and on April 4 Fincher was released.

“It was crystal-like substances, it was in a cellophane bag, and it was under the floor mat,” Elizabeth Bobbitt, the interim district attorney for the area, told the New York paper. “We are not crazy people down here who would like to arrest people for cotton candy.” 

Roadside drug tests have long been a source of controversy and false positives, as detailed in a 2016 New York Times Magazine and ProPublica investigation

Based on those $2 tests, officers have wrongly identified everything from motor oil to cat litter to donut glaze as illicit drugs.  

“Why, it’s almost as if these field tests will say whatever law enforcement officers want them to,” Radley Balko wrote in the Washington Post in 2015.

In this case, the suit alleges, it was blue food coloring that foiled the test and netted a faulty result.

The test-maker did not respond to a request for comment.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.