Confused and/or corrupt police in central Pennsylvania have been sued in federal court for holding a man in jail for 29 days over homemade soap they thought was cocaine, reports The Morning Call.

Almost exactly two years ago, police pulled over a Mercedes-Benz on Interstate 78 near Allentown for “approaching 60 mph in a 55 mph zone” and “riding a traffic line for about a half-mile.” Driving the car was 26-year-old Annadel Cruz, of New York, with Alexander J. Bernstein in the passenger seat.

In the trunk of the Mercedes were two bricks of the good shit: raw, uncut, top-grade homemade soap.

According to the police report, Bernstein told police he had a bag in the trunk and gave police permission to search it. In the bag, the trooper found two brick-size packages, which were covered in clear plastic wrap and red tape.

Cruz told police the packages contained soap she had made for her sister in Florida, but a field test showed that the substance was cocaine. The packages weighed 5.2 pounds.

Police also reportedly found a small amount of marijuana in the car, and Cruz apparently admitted to police that she’d smoked pot earlier in the day. Which, hey, that’s illegal!

But police, armed with an apparently positive field test for cocaine, charged both Cruz and Bernstein with possession with intent to deliver cocaine, possession of cocaine, conspiracy, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

So, this already stinks. Bernstein was held on $500,000 bail, and was released 29 days later after paying reduced bail and court costs that totaled over $32,000. His detention lasted through Thanksgiving. This really stinks. Bernstein is now suing their asses.

You are wondering: how the hell is there a field test that can’t tell the difference between soap and cocaine? Well, maybe there isn’t one:

In the lawsuit, Bernstein claims he pretended to be asleep at the barracks after he was arrested, and overhead troopers discussing the field test. One trooper said the package tested negative for cocaine, the suit states.

“Well … make it positive,” another trooper replied, according to the suit.

Which, hmm, the choices here are between cops fudging a cocaine field test and a field test that literally cannot tell the difference between cocaine and soap. But! It turns out these field tests are notoriously shitty, and maybe shouldn’t be the kind of thing that can land a person in jail:

Field tests have come under fire in numerous states after the tests mistook male enhancement products for methamphetamine and motor oil for heroin. In Travis County, Texas in 2012, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg stopped accepting plea bargains on low-level possession cases based on field tests after a string of 12 false-positive drug tests.

The lawsuit alleges police “conspired to fabricate evidence that [Bernstein] was transporting drugs, and knew that the field test they used on the soap wasn’t reliable,” according to the report.

Bernstein’s felony charges were eventually dropped, as were Cruz’s. Two days after Bernstein posted bail in 2013, lab tests confirmed that the cocaine was, in fact, soap.

[The Morning Call]

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