NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - She should have never been arrested or had to spend a single night in jail. But a Pasco County mom spent five months in a jail cell after a field drug test gave a false positive result. Now she wants to make sure no one else suffers the same injustice.
Rebecca Shaw said she felt like her whole life was over. It's been almost 3 years since a traffic stop turned into a months-long nightmare.
"My kids were devastated. I was away for five months. I cried constantly," Shaw told FOX 13 News.
Shaw's attorney says they will sue the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and the manufacturer of the presumptive test kits.
“This is a lucrative business for these manufacturers to be peddling their faulty products to law enforcement agencies. They're lucrative and they know these tests are not working," said Cailin Costa.
In September of 2015, Shaw ran out of gas. A Pasco County deputy pulled up behind her, but instead of helping, he asked if he could search her car. She said "yes."
Shaw detailed what happened next:
Deputy: What are these?
Shaw: They're vitamins
Deputy: They don't look like vitamins. They look like oxycodone.
Shaw: They're not.
The deputy did not believe her. Shaw says he pulled out a field drug test kit. The kit tested positive for oxycodone.
"My heart just sank, I said, 'That’s wrong,'" Shaw recalled.
She would spend the next five months in jail. She lost her job, her house, and was separated from her children. Her husband finally was able to raise $5,000 to bail her out.
Seven months later, a state crime lab determined the pills were vitamins, not oxycodone. The charges went away but the damage had already been done.
“It is a serious injustice and, again, as a taxpayer, is frustrating that our money is going to these faulty products," said Shaw.
FOX 13 conducted a yearlong investigation on the unreliability of field reagent test kits and how they often get it wrong. Scientists tested everyday items like coffee, cold medicine, and air -- all of which resulted in false positives.
“I think the time away from her children and the nightmare that she endured, it's what is motivating her not to crawl into a cave and be silenced and move on and forget about this," Costa added. "The idea that this could happen to someone else really bothers her."
Costa says she plans to file the lawsuit by this fall.