Drugs so dangerous agency ends on-site testing; prosecutors worry about impact on justice system
Forrest Gossett and Eric Dundon, Hannibal Courier-Post
A new Missouri State Highway Patrol policy designed to protect its troopers could delay charges against alleged drug offenders.
Because of increased risks for exposure to fentanyl and other airborne or transdermal narcotics, the Highway Patrol has informed law enforcement agencies that it will no longer conduct field testing for illegal substances during police raids and traffic stops. The policy change went into effect at the end of 2017.
“In order to protect our Troopers from the potential lethal risks associated with exposure to fentanyl and fentanyl-related components, the Patrol is no longer performing field tests,” said Highway Patrol Capt. John Hotz, Director of the Patrol’s Public Information and Education Division. “The Patrol has put protocols in place for limited rapid testing in a laboratory setting when necessary for prosecution or continuation of an investigation. The Patrol continues to evaluate the tasks we perform to protect our troopers as well as maintaining public safety.”
Field testing provides prosecuting attorneys with evidence that suspect substances seized by police ― such as methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin ― are indeed illegal. This testing allows prosecutors to establish probable cause to file charges. Without quick testing, substances must be sent to a state lab, which means