COMMENTARY: Drug Tests May Need Judicial Review

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There may be a flaw in the local criminal justice system.

Drug tests administered to probation violators and other defendants in local courts could be returning inaccurate results.

As a result, innocent people may be going to jail.

The possible problem came to light last week in Cannon County General Sessions Court when a pregnant woman seeking furlough had two court-ordered drug tests return positive for methamphetamine.

Because of the positive showings for drugs, Judge Susan Melton denied the furlough request.

Upon her return to the Cannon County Jail, the expectant mother was given a third urine drug test, and the results of that one were negative.

She was then taken to Stones River Hospital, where blood was drawn for additional testing. Results from blood tests are considering to provide more accurate results.

Friday, the results of the blood test came back, and they were negative. No trace of any of seven drugs tested for were found in the blood of the defendant.

Judge Melton immediately granted a furlough for the expectant mom, who is scheduled to have her baby delivered by C-section on April 13.

But the situation raises an important question: how accurate are the urine tests being administered in court?

A drug screen is ordered for every defendant who is in court for violation of probation as a matter to procedure. That's not surprising, considering that many of the defendants are on probation because they committed some type of drug offense.

And it does not surprise me when a probation violator fails a test, given how difficult it is for most drug users to kick the habit. If they fail the test, they go directly to jail.

A judge can only act on the information which if presented to them, so it is imperative to make sure the evidence is accurate, especially when a person's freedom depends on it.

In the case of the pregnant mom, she did not fail the drug test, the drug test failed her. Local Public Defender Ken McKnight says its not the first time this situation has occurred in the local judicial system, which includes Rutherford County.

However, if justice is to be served properly, everything that can be done to assure that it doesn't happen, should be.
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Members Opinions:
April 04, 2011 at 6:19am
There are many flaws in the Judicial system here in Cannon County but it is the only one we have and there appears to be little that any of the citizens can do about it. I applaud Public Defender Ken McKnight. I have seen him in action in the courtroom and he does a remarkable job in my humble opinion and he appears to care about the ones he represents. To many others in the system, the almighty dollar is first in their actions no matter whose life is ruined.
November 21, 2011 at 11:52am
Wow, do you really think that there can be a false positive reading for meth? For marijuana it could be from second hand smoke or poppy seeds. Just because she was positive the first time and retested shows she could have gotten shampoo for a hair test, synthetic pee, detox supplements, or gum to hide the results. If she was positive the first time maybe this should be looked at more seriously than what you are saying especially if she is carrying a child who cannot speak for him or herself. It really shouldn't "ruin her life" if she has to be retested if she cares about herself or the child at all. What you wrote is not very moral that you value someones freedom over the truth.
November 21, 2011 at 12:29pm
The "truth" is that the test done at the hospital was negative of meth, marijuana and all other drugs, and she was granted her furlough.
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