Deputies Confused a Granny's Cotton Candy for Meth. A High Bond Kept Her Jailed For Months.

How an unscientific field test and the bail system stripped a Georgia grandmother of justice.


|||Chalermphon Kumchai/
Chalermphon Kumchai/

What do cotton candy and meth have in common? In one Georgia woman's case, both can get you sent to jail. And if that weren't bad enough, unaffordable pre-trial bail kept Dasha Fincher, of Macon, sitting in a cell for three months.

On Dec. 31, 2016, Monroe County deputies pulled Fincher over for a window tint violation and searched her car. Said search turned up a "plastic bag filled with a blue crystal-like substance in the passenger side floorboard." Fincher told the deputies that the substance in question was cotton candy. Officers ran a field test using a Nark II roadside kit. The bagged substance tested positive for meth. Fincher was arrested and charged with trafficking meth and possession of meth with intent to distribute.

Next, a county judge set a $1 million bond. Unable to afford the expensive bond, Fincher remained in jail for three months, until a more thorough test in a crime lab found the substance to be exactly what she said it was: cotton candy.

A recent investigation by a local news station found that the Nark II test kit produced 145 false positives in Georgia in a single year, meaning that Fincher isn't the only person who's been wrongfully arrested and incarcerated as a result of a faulty drug test.

But this isn't just happening in Georgia. A Florida man was wrongfully jailed after a field test confused his donut glaze with meth. A massive fentanyl bust in North Carolina proved to be anything but after a private lab determined that "$2 million worth of 'the deadly opioid fentanyl" was actually white sugar.

The bail problem that compounded the horror of Fincher's arrest is also a national problem. Reason's Scott Shackford has explored how expensive bail makes a suspect presumptively guilty unless they can pay their way out of the system. Many underprivileged suspects spend months in jail without a conviction not because the criminal justice system believes that they are a danger to society, but because they are too poor to pay their way out.

Fincher recently filed a lawsuit against the county, the deputies involved in the stop, and the maker of the field test.