back to article Man jailed for 3 days after Texas cops confuse cat litter for meth

Spare a thought for Ross LeBeau, who spent three days in jail when Texas cops confused cat litter for methamphetamine during a routine traffic stop. Although LeBeau has since been released without charge, he claims to have lost work as a result of the arrest, and is upset at the damage to his reputation. The Houston man had …

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Takes the piss doesn't it

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ukgnome: Takes the piss doesn't it

And clumps nicely, too!

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ukgnome: Takes the piss doesn't it

And clumps nicely, too!

Depends on the sort you use. We use the compressed wood pellet stuff - once the (ahem) solids have been removed, the used sawdust goes into the compost heap as an aid to compostification..

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If you are composting it, why remove the "solids"? Would they not significantly increase both quality and speed of composting?

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"Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives. Why are police departments and prosecutors still using them?"

It's not using them that's the problem, it's relying on them. They would appear to be presumptive tests, an indication that they should be followed up with something more time-consuming, elaborate and, most importantly, reliable.

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Clearly someone doesn't know what a presumptive test is.

It's a test which is quick and easy and responds positively to what you're looking for plus possibly quite a few other things. e.g. there are several presumptive tests for blood which are actually tests for peroxidase* activity, blood being one of several substances, including fruit juices, which have this property. So although a stain might give a positive result one would have to follow it up with a more specific test for blood. In my day it would have been an immunoelectrophoretic test which would have confirmed whether it was blood but also blood of the species (usually human) that you were testing for.

The key thing is that all it does is tell you to look further. It is not of evidential value.

*We discarded one of these as a component of the kit was known to be carcinogenic. I wasn't happy when years later I discovered from my daughter that it was still being used with enzyme-linked antibodies as a microscopy stain.

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You've used some long words there.

There is however a simple test for kitty litter:

Take suspect substance. Weigh it. Place sample on a piece of mesh or sieve. Drench in water for a few minutes. Weigh it again. If it now weighs roughly thirty times more than before, sample is likely to be silica kitty litter.

I'm assuming that the driver was using silica kitty litter to keep his windscreen demisted, as it is more effective than clay-based litter. Also, clay-based litter is even harder to mistake for crystal meth (of which I know little, but assume looks kinda crystally).

I say assume, but you never know [Link to Reg article about fire in US nuclear waste storage facility caused by someone using organic matter-based kitty litter instead of the good stuff]

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Anonymous Coward

There is however a simple test for kitty litter:

Take suspect substance. Weigh it. Place sample on a piece of mesh or sieve. Drench in water for a few minutes. Weigh it again. If it now weighs roughly thirty times more than before, sample is likely to be silica kitty litter.

Well, if the cops use that method, the kitty litter becomes a great place to hide meth.

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"It's not using them that's the problem, it's relying on them."

Relying on them AND issuing press releases vilifying people based on the results before trial.

Innocent until proven guilty and all that kind of thing.

Many compensation claims are ambulance chasing, but in this case he really should be taking them for everything they have and then some.

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Trollface

"Innocent until proven guilty"

Ehhh, that's so pre-truth...

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Big Brother

Houston has been at the centre of a scandal regarding the $2 roadside drug tests, which have been alleged to be sending tens of thousands of folk to jail on an annual basis, despite their proclivity for producing false positives.

The large number of positives is probably the reason why they are being used (that and they are $2, all that money they can legally steal during 'routine' stops will only go so far). Probably still gets recorded as a justified arrest, court appearance fees and is an oppertunity to ask drivers to empty their wallets (http://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2014/03/12/cops-use-traffic-stops-to-seize-millions-from-drivers-never-charged-with-a-crime/#31a412e646ae).

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Big Brother

Nothing beats Reverse Robin Hood operations sold by Ministry-of-Truth propaganda-induced moral panic.

"may have kept our children and loved ones free from being introduced to drugs."

It may also have kept levels of alien anal probing low, who knows?

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Anonymous Coward

This screams for a class action lawsuit.

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Don't blame the test - it is what it is*. Instead blame the police department that deployed this test and either didn't properly educate the officers administering it or actively mislead them.

The very idea that someone who - by the nature of the test administered - is only potentially in possession of an illicit substance can have their face and details splashed around as though the evidence was in is indicative of gross negligence on behalf of the police force.

And negligence is the more generous judgement, for if it is not negligence then it is a wholesale abandonment of their responsibility to exercise their vast powers over the citizenry with care and restraint, and to be ever mindful that they uphold due process and the rule of law.

The police, in this instance, prioritised public self-congratulation over their responsibility to protect a private citizen. In their self-righteous haste they negatively impacted the reputation of a thoroughly innocent civilian.

While there was clearly grounds for suspicion here - the initial, basic test was positive - this incident nevertheless shows that the police, institutionally, rate the rights of innocent civilians very low indeed.

In fact, given that this person posed no danger - he was not found with a weapon or a stolen car or acting suspiciously around a school or in a domestic dispute - the eagerness of the police to crow first and check later is all the more telling.

* - And I am sure the limitations of it were adequately conveyed to the department when it was being purchased.

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DAM , you do know that most alien anal probing is carried out on volunteers?

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"The police, in this instance, prioritised public self-congratulation over their responsibility to protect a private citizen."

The interesting thing about slander is that everyone who repeats it, is liable for it - and "I believed it was true because N told me" isn't a defence

This is the kind of case where not only the department, but _every single individual_ who made statements on the department's behalf to the press can be taken to court in a personal capacity, along with the media which repeated the claims.

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Facepalm

Answer

"Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives. Why are police departments and prosecutors still using them?"

Because it puts people in Jail, fines them and most likely also takes all of their belongings as it was a drug bust. Nothing sinister to see here... only

Profit!

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Meh

Re: Answer

Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives. Why are police departments and prosecutors still using them?

Most successful prosecutions rely upon people incriminating themselves. The way it is supposed to work is that the policeman mixes the snake oil with the sample, loudly declares "you're busted", and the poor fool confesses.

Quite often people are so unbalanced by the whole process of being intimidated, humiliated, strip searched, imprisoned and threatened with lengthy jail sentences that they confess to things they haven't even done. The only people who are completely immune to this are hardened criminals who have been through the process enough times not to be fazed by it anymore.

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I keep cat litter in a sock in my car for that very purpose

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I carry a whole bag in winter

It is the best replacement for sand in winter while weighting only a fraction of the weight of a bag of sand. Two small shovels full under the wheels can get you out of a lot of trouble without having to dig out the vehicle.

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Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

>I think the smart thing to do here is, if you're going to keep kitty litter in your car, keep it in the bag it came in.

[Can't tell if serious!]

The bag that kitty litter is shipped in is designed to keep moisture out. The litter won't work unless it is exposed to the damp environment.

Some folk place trays of kitty litter around the interior of caravans that they won't be using for a while - again, to keep dampness at bay. The litter can be reused byheating it gently in an oven to remove the water it has previously absorbed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

Bags full of meth, disguised as well-known litter brands!

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Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

You should look into Liquid Snow Chain Spray.When you have an issue with tyres slipping in Snow a quick spray then wait for it to dry and your good for about 30 miles.Halfords or Amazon for a fiver per tin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hALJDiNnq-k

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

> then wait for it to dry

In snow? Might take a few days then?

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Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

After watching that video id suggest taking the handbrake off and not gunning it would be more effective

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Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

You should look into Liquid Snow Chain Spray.

Different use cases. Getting out of being stuck vs driving. You usually get stuck on ice or very compacted snow where snowsocks, winter tyres and even snow chains may not be enough. You need to get out to somewhere where you can drive with your current tire set. The classic remedy is sand and that is what you can replace with cat litter.

Driving on snow for a period of time? With a spray-on gimmick? No thanks. I saw the tires on that Seat in the video, in any European country trying to get onto the road with this tyre in snow would be an immediate 3-6 points on your license (*)

Disclaimer - all of my cars have either a proper set of winter shoes or all-weathers which are known to be good up to 5cm. Even the UK resident ones. Even my 4x4 has a set of proper winter shoes to use between November and March. I use them in proper snow though (the kind you see this winter in Europe). I also have a set of proper snow chains in the boot just in case (even on the 4x4). And 25l cat litter bag too.

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Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

After watching that video id suggest taking the handbrake off and not gunning it

That video also looked like he was trying to start in first instead of second (or even third on some cars). The tires would have gotten him a few points on his license anywhere but UK too. Not road legal in most of Eu from Nov to March.

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Re: I carry a whole bag in winter

It gets you out of the shit?

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Happy

Cat litter + evidence

If you are going to keep cat litter in your car, then make sure it contains some evidence of cat usage.

You wont have to worry about your windows fogging up, as you'll need them down to avoid the aroma.

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Headmaster

Re: Cat litter + evidence

I thought kitty litter absorbs smells? So you could keep your windows up and clear. Breathing in cat excrement might harm you eventually.

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Re: Cat litter + evidence

> I thought kitty litter absorbs smells?

YMMV, IMHO. Some do, some don't - it may depend on the brand and the cat's diet. Plus the stuff itself may not smell that good to start with (albeit better than cat shit).

Hopefully it goes without saying that the cat litter should be unused to be effective!

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Re: Cat litter + evidence

Wonders about the result if moggie is on some medication that would turn up in the test!

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Re: Cat litter + evidence

I thought kitty litter absorbs smells?

Depends on the kitty litter. The nice compressed wood stuff we use does (a bit) until the sawdust smell wears off. Or at least - it works for the liquids. Not so well for the solids (especially for the bolshie[1] little cat that doesn't follow cat etiquette and bury it[2]..

[1] Actually - more like somewhere on the autism spectrum. We rescued her (with her mother and 4 siblings when she was 3 weeks old - her mother was about 7 months old - and she was a very sick little kitten. Fortunately, a mix of good care and good vets meant that she and 3 of her siblings survived. However, she's never been entirely normal, even for calico-cat versions of normal..).

[2] Since the house is our territory, cats will bury their output when using the tray. If you see a cat not doing that, except for [1] then it's a pretty good bet that they consider their dumping ground *their* territory and them as boss..

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Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

My girlfriend was stopped for driving an old car. She was searched and the foil wrapper of a KitKat was discovered. Plod "What was in this foil?". Her "A KitKat officer". Plod "A likely tail - off to the cells with you". So a night in jail and an arrest record.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

The police are sensitised to certain criminal interpretations of potentially innocent things. If they decide to investigate someone based on the age/condition of their car - or their appearance - then they have already made up their minds as to what they could find if they do a search. In other words "confirmation bias".

I once did a business trip to Den Hague for a few days. On the return journey very early in the morning I opted for comfortable jeans and T-shirt rather than my business suit. Approaching UK customs I paused fractionally to find the Green channel sign. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a customs officer perk up - and then call me over.

After seeing my folded suit inside my suitcase he immediately let me go. In his mind a person in jeans and T-shirt coming from Holland who showed hesitation at the customs channels was a potential drug smuggler.

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Ogi

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

>After seeing my folded suit inside my suitcase he immediately let me go. In his mind a person in jeans and T-shirt coming from Holland who showed hesitation at the customs channels was a potential drug smuggler.

Presumably then, all the successful drug smugglers arrive from Holland wearing suits?

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Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

Guy got arrested here in Orlando for meth when it was actually doughnut glaze sugar, and now he's suing for over $15K. He's suing both the city of Orlando and the company that makes the drug kits.

http://fortune.com/2016/10/25/orlando-doughnut-glaze-meth-lawsuit/

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Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

Was she black by any chance?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

>She was searched and the foil wrapper of a KitKat was discovered.

Yikes! The inside of my van resembles a thrift shop with a rubbish bin emptied in it! There is no shortage of foil, cellophane, duck tape, adhesive, clothes, books, tools, empty-ish tobacco packets, nik-naks, and other junk, rubbish and precious things. And that's just the cab.

No officer of the law has ever taken the opportunity to search my vehicle. They seem to share my opinion that it wouldn't be a good use of police time, even if they did eventually find a gram of Moroccan Black.

My vehicle might be slobby, but I hate seeing my picturesque countryside marred by MacDonalds packaging dumped by some jerk from a the window of a Renault Clio or some sort of Vauxhall. When I'm king, all fast food wrappers will be printed with a picture of the customer. "Put it in the bin or I'll kick you in the shin!"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

Presumably then, all the successful drug smugglers arrive from Holland wearing suits?

And camel hair coats

Ask Del Boy

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

All I can say, is that if this happened in the UK, then you are telling ridiculous lies. For what reason, I do not know, but lies none the less.

There is no sufficiency of evidence there, and absolutely no chance any cop in the UK would ever arrest someone for that, simply because they legally can't.

So, if it happened in the UK, then I don't know why you're lying like that, but it's ridiculous.

If of course, this didn't happen in the UK, well, the rest of the world is crazy. :)

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Megaphone

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

If it was a KitKat wrapper, it would be obvious, as you have to rub it until the writing on the chocolate shows through, then slice between the bars with your thumbnail. If that isn't the way you open it, then a drug related investigation is entirely warranted!

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Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

I've been really close to that myself. When I was 19 I was stopped for....well actually I never did figure out why I was stopped and at 19 I didn't have the sense to know that if I asked they had to tell me. Or that I could say something like "No, I won't give consent for you to search my car." But anyway, I was stopped and my junker of a car that was older than me was searched. They spent 2 hours searching my car for no apparent reason. They were ready to haul me in at one point. The conversation was like this:

Cop: "Is there anything in that bottle?"

Me: "No, it's empty."

Cop: "Alright, up against the car. You think it's OK to drink and drive?"

Me: "....It's a root beer bottle!" (In case you're curious, it was. IBC root beer to be exact.)

Cop: *Pausing to look closer at the bottle in question* "Good answer."

In the end I narrowly dodged a night in jail for having an empty soft drink bottle in my car and froze my butt off standing in out in late fall weather at night for 2 hours. It was very much a "don't you guys have anything better to do?" moment for me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

A couple of years back I collected my teenage daughter from a friend,one Saturday night. Passing a dark lay-by I was pulled over by a police car that had been lurking in there. When they saw the driver was a grey haired dad and not the teenage yoof they were expecting they just waved me on my way. I have a nasty suspicion that if there had been a lad in the driver's seat it would have been a rather different story.

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Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

If you don't have grey hair, just make sure your car radio is tuned to Radio 4. A few moments of John Humphries or Eddie Mair will see you clear of almost any suspected crime.

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Big Brother

Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

"Yikes! The inside of my van resembles a thrift..."

In the case of my motor, at various times, a combination of: Dirty great sharp ham knife, acid (hydrochloric, wouldn't want to give the wrong impression), acetone, packet or jam jar of white lightweight somewhat fluffy powder (wallpaper paste), Hypodermic syringes AND needles white power (fine surface filler - may not be an a labelled box), enough sharps to lacerate an army (miscellaneous knives, saws,scissors, drills and chisels etc), various aerosol cans, various dodgy looking power tools, electronic instruments - laser measuring devices, gas analyser, 500V Insulation tester / continuity tester / RCD / PSC tester ....

Just depends on what I'm doing at the time ... A lot of the small low value items tend to live in door pockets, glove boxes and boot all the time.

As for the state of the thing --- I've got better things to do than clean it out every month, let alone every night. The annual emptying out so they can get in to do the MOT is bad enough - takes weeks before it's back to normal

And like you, ac I don't mind littering my own closed property but detest those b*****ds who want a lovely clean car at the expense of everywhere they pass through,

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Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

@PNGuinn, sounds like a paper hanging kit, sharps, white powder and hypodermic syringes for sucking bubbles out from under the paper. I have had interesting conversations in Boots in the long distant past trying to buy syringes for paper hanging.

No more problems after my Dad bought me an antique vets syringe kit at an antiques fair. It cam in a mahogany velvet lined box with a selection of needle sizes.

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Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

I use one of those reusable garbage bags made for vehicles for that; I just empty it into the nearest convenient trash bin as needed.

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Re: Only TRULY GIGANTIC lawsuits will stop this...

> Plod "What was in this foil?". Her "A KitKat officer". Plod "A likely tail - off to the cells with you". So a night in jail and an arrest record.

Any ambulance chaser would turn that into false arrest charges

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