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Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office discovers cocaine field-testing kits faulty, creating false positives

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has said that the department discovered field-testing kits for cocaine indicated false positives.

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In a statement released by JSO, during a drug investigation in the Duval County pre-trial detention facility, a narcotics detective found that multiple over-the-counter substances were indicating false positive results on Scott Company Presumptive Field-Testing Kits. The substances that were tested were not cocaine.

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In response to the detective alerting the department, all police officers immediately stopped using any of the field-testing kits.

JSO also said that it notified partners at the State Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Florida concerning the identified false positives.

“Earlier today, SAO leadership notified the Chief Judge for the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Florida and members of the local criminal defense bar of JSO’s discovery,” JSO said in a written statement.

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According to the sheriff’s office, JSO has used Scott Company Presumptive Field-Testing Kits for cocaine for over a decade without indication of any issue pertaining to efficacy and reliability.

“These kits were exclusively used as presumptive field tests, not for evidentiary purposes at criminal trials,” JSO said. “JSO utilizes other test kits for other controlled substances.”

The sheriff’s office does not believe that the faulty field-testing kits will have an impact on current or past criminal cases.

“JSO is working with local prosecutors to identify any pending cases that may be impacted by yesterday’s false positive discovery,” JSO said. “Because these kits are merely presumptive field tests, not used as evidence in criminal trials, there is no retrospective concern pertaining to disposed criminal cases.”

Law and safety expert Dale Carson previously worked for the FBI and now works as a defense attorney. He said that a false positive can leave a permanent stain on a person’s life.

“The person now has a criminal record for a felony arrest and there is no way to remove that arrest from the system ultimately,” Carson said.

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Carson explained the substance is taken to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab. It takes 30 days to receive the results. So even if the person is innocent, they will have to suffer the consequences.

“The individual who has been identified improperly with a bad field test for contraband is either in custody or they’ve had to pay a substantial bond to a bail bondsman in order to get out of custody,” Carson said.

Action News Jax spoke to CEO of Scott Company, Ian Scott about the faulty field-testing kits. He said that they found out about the issue on Thursday morning and they are running diagnostic tests on all of the substances.

Scott also added that this is not the first time they’ve had false positives and that this is the “nature of the beast.”

JSO said these kits were exclusively used as presumptive tests, not for evidentiary purposes at criminal trials. Carson said despite this, an arrest has a lasting effect.

“As soon as you’re tagged with an arrest -- not necessarily a conviction, but an arrest -- you are denied employment and opportunity in a massive way for the rest of your life,” Carson said.

In a statement released by the Communication Director of the State Attorney’s Office, 4th Circuit:

“Following a meeting this morning with law enforcement, we became aware that field test kits for cocaine have resulted in false positives. We immediately informed the Public Defender’s Office, Regional Conflict Counsel, the Chief Judge, and local Criminal Defense Bar of this development. We are conducting a thorough review of cases potentially implicated to determine what actions need to be taken moving forward to address this issue.”

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