Drug Charges Made by Plumbers in the Future?

September 6, 2007

To estimate illicit drug abuse in a community, surveys have had to rely on the honesty of respondents who were asked about their drug use.  Maybe these people would not to tell the whole truth about their drug use?  Now, scientists can get their answers from a new screening test described at the American Chemical Society.

An environmental chemist at Oregon State University says the new testing can provide a fast, reliable and inexpensive way to track trends in drug usage while preserving the anonymity of individuals.  They have conducted preliminary tests in ten U.S. cities, which quantify methamphetamine, metabolites of cocaine and marijuana and legal drugs, such as methadone, oxycodone, and ephedrine.

Her lab is now refining the technique to test accuracy for extremely low concentrations, such as a few nanograms (billionths of a gram) per liter of waste water.   They are verifying their calculations by linking their drug measurements to other biomarkers, such as caffeine and nicotine, to avoid testing agricultural and industrial substances by mistake.

So long as this testing is devoted to its present use, it presents no challenge to the rights of individual citizens.  But law enforcement always want to peek into the private pursuits of citizens.  If this testing is ever used to justify some “probable cause” for searching someone’s person or property, then such use of this testing could be a threat to individual liberties, depending on how it is used and how it affects the 4th Amendment privacy rights of our citizens.

Can you imagine—- a secret or forced plumbing inspection being used to bring drug charges against an unsuspecting citizen? Possibilities such as this are why we criminal defense lawyers have to always be on our toes to protect our clients rights.