What’s scary is Las Vegas has been using these unreliable field drug test kits for 30 years, and the results the field test results are never confirmed in a crime lab, all while people were forced into guilty pleas based on bad evidence. What should be almost criminal is Police Department’s crime lab had produced a study in 2014 detailing the vulnerabilities of the tests and the prosecutors office continued for two years to to convict people only on these field test kits results, all while knowing that the tests were prone to error. Help in that headline should be used loosely, the district attorney’s office is trying to protect themselves.
The Clark County district attorney’s office established a conviction review unit in October. In what appears to be one of its first efforts, the unit has been seeking information about problematic convictions resulting from one of the office’s routine practices: accepting guilty pleas in drug cases that rely largely on the results of field tests done by police that can be unreliable.
Police place suspicious material into a pouch of chemicals that are supposed to change color to indicate the possible presence of illegal drugs. The $2 tests are used by police departments nationwide, and over nearly 30 years in Clark County they have helped produce tens of thousands of drug convictions for the possession or sale of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. In the vast majority of those cases, the field test results are never confirmed in a formal crime lab.