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Crime Lab Fails to Identify Substance Thought to Be Cocaine

Prosecutors have filed revised charges against a 24-year-old man taken into custody on March 15 after forensic specialists from the Illinois State Police were unable to identify the substance found in his car during a routine traffic stop. A field testing kit used by Altamont Police Department officers at the scene identified the substance as cocaine. Media reports indicate that the substance has now been sent to another crime laboratory for further testing.

The man was originally charged with manufacturing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. He now faces a Class 3 felony count of manufacturing or delivering a look-alike substance and Class X felony counts of manufacturing or delivering more than 900 grams of a substance chemically similar to a controlled substance and trafficking a controlled substance. The man’s attorney entered not guilty pleas to all three charges in a recent hearing and is scheduled to appear in court again on his behalf on May 30.

The new charges also prompted prosecutors to enter into a new bond agreement with the man. His bond was originally set at $775,000, but that has now been reduced to $20,000 because the true nature of the substance remains unknown and the man has no prior criminal record.

While the penalties for serious drug offenses may be severe, experienced criminal defense attorneys could seek to have them reduced or dismissed when they are based on questionable evidence such as the results of field drug tests. The portable testing kits used by police in round the country are easy to use and inexpensive, but they have been known to identify substances like sugar and baking soda as illegal drugs.

Source: The Effingham Daily news, “New charge in drug trafficking case”, Staff report, April 3, 2019