Our criminal justice system includes a vast body of law restricting the manufacturing, distribution, sale, possession, and use of controlled substances and illegal drugs. These restrictions may also extend to substances that are not actually one of the many controlled or illegal substances, but that a person attempts to pass off as one. In that case, the person may be charged with an offense related to a counterfeit controlled substance. Police may also mistake an otherwise innocuous substance for something illegal and arrest the person while they test the substance in question. If it turns out that the substance is not controlled or illegal, the person probably will not face criminal charges, but may still have lost a significant amount of time. Two recent cases involving Pop-Tarts and SpaghettiOs resulted in jail time and criminal charges, despite the absence of illegal drugs.
A Florida woman is reportedly considering legal action against police and prosecutors after she spent more than a month in jail for nonexistent drugs. During what police described as a “routine traffic stop” on July 2, 2014, police found a spoon on the floor of the car with a dried residue that they suspected was methamphetamine. She stated that this was dried sauce from SpaghettiOs. Police arrested her and sent the spoon to a lab for testing.
Despite a lack of any criminal history, the court ordered the woman to seek drug counseling. She was released from jail after two days but was not able to attend all of her counseling appointments. Police arrested her again, and since she could not afford the bond payment, she was in jail from August 2 until September 18. She was released when lab results finally confirmed that the substance on the spoon was in fact spaghetti sauce. Police maintain that the arrest and detention were in good faith, but the woman has said that she may pursue claims for wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution.
A North Carolina case resulted in criminal charges, despite a similar lack of any illegal substance whatsoever. A man is accused of attempting to pass off crushed Pop-Tarts as crack cocaine. In June, he allegedly sold a bag of what he claimed was crack to an undercover police officer for $20. The officer did not arrest the man at the time but sent the bag to a lab for testing. Note that Florida police arrested a woman who denied that dried spaghetti sauce was methamphetamine, while North Carolina police did not initially arrest a man who claimed that Pop-Tarts were crack cocaine. We live in strange times.
Police continued watching the alleged Pop-Tart dealer, and they arrested him in September after another alleged deal involving no cocaine at all. He is facing charges of selling or delivering a counterfeit controlled substance and creating a counterfeit controlled substance. North Carolina restricts the production, distribution, or sale of “any substance which is by any means intentionally represented as a controlled substance.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-87(6)(b). In Texas, however, the term “counterfeit substance” refers to controlled substances bearing altered or counterfeit identifying marks. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 481.002(7).
If you have been charged with an alleged criminal offense, a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you about your rights and prepare the best possible defense for your case. Board-certified criminal defense lawyer Michael J. Brown has practiced in west Texas for more than 20 years. Contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157 to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.
More Blog Posts:
Fake Twitter Account in Mayor’s Name Leads to Police Raid, Drug Charges, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2014
One Seattle Police Officer Responsible for Eighty Percent of All Marijuana Tickets for the First Half of 2014; Municipal Court Drops All of the Cases, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, November 6, 2014
Federal Judge Grants Default Judgment in Forfeiture Action for Money that Allegedly Smelled Like Marijuana, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, September 23, 2014
Photo credit: valkrye131 [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr.