Georgia

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.

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|||Chalermphon Kumchai/Dreamstime.com
Chalermphon Kumchai/Dreamstime.com

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.

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  1. On Dec. 31, 2016, Monroe County deputies pulled Fincher over for a window tint violation and searched her car.

    1) Never allow police to search your vehicle without a warrant. NEVER.

    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.

    2) Demand a speedy trial. The DA would have dropped the charges because they would have rushed the substance testing and found out it was cotton candy.

    1. If they see something “that looks like drugs” through the window, they don’t need a warrant.

      But more importantly, PDs or states ought to be on the hook for using “drug tests” that are demonstrably uselessly faulty.

      Probably the makers of the tests ought to be sued if they claim the tests are reliable.

      (And if they don’t, well, er, the cops definitely shouldn’t be using them?)

  2. Granny holds up a stick of cotton candy: “You got one thing wrong, though.”

    Group of cops: “Oh yeah, what’s that?”

    Granny: “This is not meth.”

    Granny slams cotton candy against the ground and the whole room explodes.

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

    Yep, and with the money she wins in her case, she’ll be able to pay the $1M bond out of her pocket change if this ever happens again.

    1. Or the maker of the field test is in the clear because their instructions say not to use the test as the sole reason for the arrest, and the deputy and county are protected by qualified immunity because no court has previously ruled that they ought to follow the instructions while testing cotton candy for meth.

  4. Can meth be spun into cotton candy?

    Not a fan of pot and never tried edibles, but meth infused cotton candy and donuts sounds like a blast.

    1. teeth would fall out exponentially faster.

    2. I’m pretty sure it’s water soluble, so it shouldn’t be hard to mix it with sugar and make all kinds of confections.

  5. And one important fact, in my purview at least, that this article does not mention…her windows WERE NOT tinted in violation of the law. The officers thought they MIGHT BE in violation and pulled her over to check. In a just world, this would have been “fruit of the poisonous tree”. The officers were not justified in stopping her to begin with, therefore any evidence of a crime should be inadmissible. This tactic of finding some minor traffic violation as grounds to stop and search vehicles has gotten way out of hand. (Didn’t maintain lane, no turn signal for changing lanes, etc) These are all “he said/she said” situations in which the police are always correct, even when they are not.

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

    Hey, it’s no skin off their nose, until there’s skin off their nose.

  7. How did they come up with the million-dollar bail number?

    I mean, it sounds a little bit excessive, if you ask me, which they obviously didn’t.

    1. I’m always skeptical of ‘intent to distribute’ charges, and their ridiculousness is on blatant display here, but that may have been the justification. Which is awful.

  8. In all fairness, cotton candy IS hard to differentiate from meth.
    That’s why I get so confused when I go to county fair.

  9. If people don’t want to be falsely accused of possessing meth, maybe they just shouldn’t buy cotton candy. Ever think of that, cop-hating pussies?

    1. Don’t want to get busted like a thug? Don’t get caught holding cotton candy like a thug.

  10. “Affirmative dispatch, I’ve discovered a drug manufacturing ring, at the ‘Midway of fun’, they’re selling meth and corndogs! Send the SWAT team and tell ’em to bring extra grenades” !!
    / Officer Fife as he imagines his certain commendations

  11. Obviously these deputies are retarded, and would likely drive off a cliff, should their GPS advised them to.
    But is the presumptive test that indicate positive for literally everything really defective?
    If it’s true purpose is to convince defendants to take a plea, then they function quite well.
    “The officer will testify that his CSI brand forensic test kit proved beyond any doubt that the substance you possessed was contraband. Now do you want to go to the rape cage, or pay a huge fine and get probation”?!?
    I think the public defender, whose job it is to convince defendants to take a plea deal, really dropped the ball here.

  12. Shotgun blasts to the face for everyone!

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