In Oklahoma, a man has been cleared of cocaine charges after lab tests revealed that cops had grossly misidentified the substance they claimed was cocaine.
Although the man’s case has now been dismissed, he was still forced to spend multiple weeks behind bars. The case highlights numerous problems with current drug law enforcement and sentencing practices.
Cocaine Case Dropped
The entire incident started back on August 12. That night, a homeless man named Cody Gregg was riding his bicycle when cops tried to pull him over.
The officer involved claimed that Gregg did not have proper taillights on his bike. Further, when cops tried to stop Gregg, he reportedly “did not stop but started to pedal harder as if he was trying to get away,” police reports said.
Ultimately, cops chased him down and pulled him over. They then apparently searched his backpack. That’s when they discovered a coffee can containing a large plastic bag filled with a white powder.
“Inside the baggie was a large amount of white powder substance that I believed to be cocaine based on my training and experience,” the arresting officer said. “The white powder inside the baggy later tested positive for cocaine and was a total package weight of 45.91 grams of cocaine.”
After being arrested, Gregg was detained in the Oklahoma County Jail, reportedly held on a $50,000 bail.
Eventually, Gregg pled guilty to charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He said he entered the plea in order to get out of the county jail.
Gregg was locked up until last Friday when—despite the arresting officer’s “training and experience”—lab tests revealed that the white powder was definitely not cocaine. Instead, it was powdered milk that Gregg had received from a food pantry.
After the lab tests came back, Gregg was released from jail. He then requested that his guilty plea be dropped, since he entered that plea only in an attempt to be released from jail.
Oklahoma County District Judge Timothy R. Henderson granted Gregg’s request. As a result, Gregg’s guilty plea and his entire case have now been dismissed.
Highlighting Problems With Legal System
Gregg’s case highlights a number of problems with the current legal system in the U.S.
First off, it shows the ways that poor people and homeless people tend to be targeted for petty offenses such as bicycling without a taillight.
Additionally, it shows how problematic and dangerous police discretion and field drug testing can be. Gregg ended up behind bars for several weeks all because of one cop’s assumptions and a grossly inaccurate field test.
In fact, a recent investigation found that field tests are unable to detect key differences between legal and illegal substances. Specifically, the investigation found that drug field tests consistently fail to differentiate between THC—which is illegal in many places—and CBD—which is legal.
Even more, Gregg’s case reveals the problems linked to money bail. Because he could not afford the $50,000 bail, he was forced to stay locked up.
And finally, this incident also sheds light on the dangers of mandatory minimum sentencing, a practice that often ends up pressuring people to accept plea deals regardless of their innocence or guilt.