A man in Orlando, Florida, says he spent 10 hours in jail after police mistook doughnut glaze in his car for crystal methamphetamine.
Daniel Rushing was pulled over in December for a traffic violation when Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkin spotted flakes of a mysterious substance on the floor that she suspected were “some sort of narcotic,” she wrote in an arrest report obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.
Rushing told the outlet that he agreed to a search of his car because he knew he had nothing to hide. He says he told officers the flakes were glaze from a Krispy Kreme Donut he ate in the car, and was shocked when two roadside drug tests came back positive for crystal meth.
“I kept telling them, ‘That’s … glaze from a doughnut,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “They tried to say it was crack cocaine at first, then they said, ‘No, it’s meth, crystal meth.’”
Rushing was strip-searched and held at the county jail for 10 hours before being released on a $2,500 bond. But weeks later, Rushing seemed to be vindicated when a lab analysis showed that the flakes did not contain any illicit substances. Next month, he plans to file a lawsuit against the city for unspecified damages in what he says was a wrongful arrest.
Orland Police Sgt. Wanda Ford told The Huffington Post that there’s no confirmation the substance was specifically doughnut glaze — testing merely determined that it was not an illegal drug.
“The substance was not in fact found to be krispy kreme flakes,” she wrote in an email. “FDLE testing just determined it wasn’t a controlled substance.”
She added that Rushing was never charged with a crime, but that the department believes the arrest was legal.
“Based on the officer’s experience, and the field drug test that came up positive, probable cause existed to make a lawful arrest,” she said. “When the FDLE lab showed it to be otherwise, Mr Rushing was not criminally prosecuted.”
But the inaccuracy of those field tests is part of a much larger issue. A comprehensive report by ProPublica published this month found the error rate for drug field tests is so high that “there is every reason to suspect” the tests result in thousands of wrongful convictions each year.
Ashley Huff is one particularly outrageous example of how an incorrect field test could potentially lead to a permanent criminal record. In 2014, cops in Georgia arrested her after a substance she said was SpaghettiOs sauce tested positive for meth.
A lab analysis ultimately confirmed that the substance was not meth, but it took officials more than a month to get around to testing it. In the meantime, Huff sat in jail, unable to afford bail. During that time, she was so desperate to get out that she was strongly considering taking a plea deal — and a drug record — just so she could leave.