By: Caitlin O'Kane | CBS News
November 28, 2018
A woman from Monroe County, Georgia, said she spent over three months in jail for possessing cotton candy, CBS affiliate WMAZ reports. Dasha Fincher said a roadside drug test falsely identified her bag of cotton candy as methamphetamine.
On Thursday, Fincher filed a lawsuit in federal court against Monroe County, the two deputies who arrested her as well as the company that manufactured the drug test.
Deputies Cody Maples and Allen Henderson conducted the traffic stop on New Year's Eve 2016. Deputies said the car Fincher was riding in was stopped because its window tints were too dark, though they later admitted that the windows were legal.
Fincher said the deputies saw a large open plastic bag inside the car and didn't believe her when she told them it was blue cotton candy. The deputies then used a roadside field test that detected meth inside the bag.
Fincher was arrested and charged with meth trafficking and possession of meth with intent to distribute. Fincher's bond was set at $1 million and she remained in jail because she couldn't pay the cash bond.
In March 2017, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation lab test determined the substance in the bag was not an illegal drug. The charges against Fincher were dropped four weeks later.
Fincher's lawsuit argues that the Monroe County Sheriff's Office was reckless and negligent and violated her civil rights.
The drug test was manufactured by Sirchie Acquisitions, a company based in North Carolina, according to the lawsuit. The Nark II test has a history of false positive results, the suit says.
In 2016, a ProPublica investigation revealed that low-cost roadside drug test kits "routinely produce false positives" that have sent thousands of people to jail nationwide. The report noted that the Justice Department issued guidelines in 2000 calling for test-kit packaging to carry warning labels, including a statement that kit users should receive appropriate training and should be taught that the tests may give false-positive and false-negative results.
ProPublica reported that as of 2016 three of the largest manufacturers, including Sirchie, had not printed the warning on their tests, and that labs rarely notify officers when a result is later proven false. Therefore, many law enforcement departments believe the system works better than it really does. Following that report, Houston police stopped using the tests.
Fincher's suit argues that blue food coloring in the cotton candy could have caused a false positive test result when no drugs were present. The suit also says Deputies Maples and Henderson were not trained in performing the Nark II test or in identifying street drugs.
Fincher is seeking damages from the county, the two deputies and Sirchie.
CBS News reached out to the Monroe County Sheriff's office but has not received a reply for comment.