After pulling over the aptly named Daniel Rushing for failing to make a complete stop as he left the parking lot of a 7-11 in Orlando and driving 12 miles an hour above the speed limit, Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkins "observed in plain view a rock-like substance on the floor board where his feet were." The eagle-eyed, street-savvy cop later recalled that she "recognized, through my eleven years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer, the substance to be some sort of narcotic." The suspect "stated that the substance is sugar from a Krispy Kreme Donut that he ate," but Riggs-Hopkins knew better: Two field tests of the "rock-like substance" gave "a positive indication for the presence of amphetamines."
Rushing was handcuffed, arrested, and taken to the county jail, where he was strip-searched and locked up for 10 hours before being released on $2,500 bail. Three days later, after a lab test found no illegal substance in the evidence recovered by Riggs-Hopkins, the charges against Rushing were dropped. The lab test was not specific enough to identify which brand of donut the glaze came from, so we'll just have to take Rushing's word that it was indeed a Krispy Kreme.
"I kept telling them, 'That's…glaze from a doughnut," Rushing said in a recent interview with the Orlando Sentinel. "They tried to say it was crack cocaine at first. Then they said, 'No, it's meth, crystal meth.'" While the story sounds funny from a distance, Rushing was not laughing then, and he isn't now. He plans to sue the Orlando Police Department for arbitrarily depriving him of his liberty. "I got arrested for no reason at all," he said. "It feels scary when you haven't done anything wrong and get arrested.…It's just a terrible feeling."
Riggs-Hopkins was surveilling the 7-11 in response to "citizen complaints about drug activity" and thought it was suspicious that Rushing, who was giving a lift to a friend who worked at the convenience store, left without buying anything, in the company of a "black female employee of the 7-11." So in addition to the faux expertise of overconfident drug warriors, this episode illustrates the dangers posed by pretextual traffic stops, which are often followed by searches. Like many innocent people, Rushing agreed to let the cops search his car, and they found another nugget of glaze/meth. "I didn't have anything to hide," Rushing explained. Or so he thought. He did not understand the incriminating power of innocuous substances combined with faulty field tests. "I'll never let anyone search my car again," he told the Sentinel.
Although Rushing learned a valuable lesson from this episode, it is doubtful that police did. Even after years of stories like this one, cops either do not know or do not care that the tests on which they rely to arrest people for drug offenses routinely react to legal substances as if they were contraband.
A few days before the Sentinel ran its story about Rushing's pending lawsuit, officials in Hugo, Colorado, rescinded warnings that residents should not drink the local tap water because it was contaminated by THC. As in Rushing's case, multiple field tests of Hugo water supposedly showed it was psychoactive. Denver's CBS affiliate reports that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation "ultimately determined there was no THC in the town's water after six of 10 tests were said to be false positives."