TAMPA, Fla. - Rebecca Shaw is not a criminal, but for months, she was treated like one. The mother of four -- who didn't break the law or do anything wrong -- sat in jail for five long, agonizing months.
“It felt like my whole life was over. It was terrible," Rebecca exclaimed. "My kids were devastated. I was away for five months. I cried constantly.”
Rebecca's perfect storm of hell started when she ran out of gas on the road. A Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputy pulled up behind her, but instead of helping her, he asked if he could search her car.
“[He] said, 'What are these?' Rebecca recalled.
She told him they were vitamins, but he apparently didn’t believe her.
“He said, 'They don't look like vitamins. They look like oxycodone,’” Rebecca continued.
The deputy pulled out a field drug test kit -- kits used by law enforcement all over the country to detect illegal drugs. To Rebecca's shock, the presumptive kit produced a positive hit for oxycodone.
Rebecca insisted the pills were vitamins, not oxy. But it didn't help. "My heart just sank. I said, ‘That’s wrong!"
Rebecca was arrested, booked, and charged with trafficking oxycodone. With no way to pay a $5,000 bond she sat in jail. "It was scary being in there and having a public defender that didn't believe me," she continued.
After her husband was able to come up with the bail money, Rebecca waited another seven months for the state crime lab to confirm the pills were, in fact, vitamins.
The case was dropped but the damage had already been done, explained her new attorney Patrick LeDuc. "He does the field drug test and because it tests positive, nothing else mattered. It didn't matter she had no prior record, it didn't matter she was out of gas.”
FOX 13 previously conducted a yearlong investigation on the unreliability of field drug test kits and how they often get it wrong. Scientists showed us how household items like oregano, chocolate, and cough medicine tested positive for drugs, and how lives were turned upside down.
Despite all of that, law enforcement continues to use these faulty drug test kits and innocent people continue to pay the price.
"They’re putting innocent people in jail and ruining people’s lives," Rebecca added.
Rebecca is considering her legal options, but so far, no lawsuit has been filed.