Police in Texas pulled over a car driven by a man and his girlfriend who
were on there way to a job interview. Police searched the car which belonged
to the female and found a white substance they field-tested positive for cocaine.
The female was arrested on a charge of possession of a controlled substance. She then pled guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was released after serving 21 days.
When the Houston police crime laboratory tested the substance it was determined it was not cocaine. A report of the negative finding was sent to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, but was misplaced until some time later when the newly-formed conviction integrity unit sent the results to the female’s address at the time of the arrest; however the lady no longer lived at that address and therefore did not receive the results.
Years later a couple reporters were investigating cases in Houston in which positive roadside field tests for narcotics later proven by lab tests to be misread or inaccurate had resulted in wrongful convictions. They turned up 212 cases of wrongful conviction due to these incorrect field tests conducted by police officers.
The two reporters were able to track down the female who was arrested for cocaine and informed her of the negative lab report. She told them she had lost her job and was evicted because of her conviction. She reached out to the District Attorney’s office to vacate her conviction.
The conviction integrity unit joined with a defense attorney for the female to file a state-law petition for a writ of habeas corpus. A judge recommended that the petition be granted and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated her conviction. The prosecution dismissed the charge.