MANKATO, MN — A man spent nearly three months in jail on felony drug possession charges after police searched him during a traffic stop and found vitamin supplements.
Joseph Burrell, 31, was pulled over by police in November 2014 when he was observed allegedly driving without his headlights on. The traffic stop ultimately led to a vehicle search. It was not clear if the search was voluntary.
The contraband search turned up a bag of powdered vitamin supplements, blue in color. Police alleged that the bag contained illegal methamphetamines based on the dubious results of a field test kit, according to CBS Minnesota.
Police had little incentive to believe Mr. Burrell about the true composition of the powder, since he had recently completed a drug treatment program. He was arrested and booked on two felony drug possession charges, and was taken to the Blue Earth County Jail.
“I was furious, I was hot, I was pissed off. At the same time it was like, unbelievable.” Mr. Burrell told KMSP-TV Fox 9.
Mr. Burrell’s bail was set at a whopping $250,000.00, which he was unable to pay. He sat in jail for nearly three months, waiting for the wheels of justice to slowly turn. A trial date was set for February 2015.
It took more than a month for the prosecution to even attempt to run further lab tests on the evidence.
“I believe the prosecutor in Blue Earth County was dragging their feet. I got arrested November 14, 38 days later, he finally sends the alleged amphetamines for the BCA [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] lab to get final test results,” Mr. Burrell said.
It wasn’t until January 2015 when the BCA lab finally completed its tests and determined that there was no methamphetamines in the bag. Charges were dropped, and Mr. Burrell was finally vindicated — but not without enormous inconvenience and deprivation of his liberty.
In total, it took nearly three months a man to be set free after breaking no laws. This shocking outcome looms over countless Americans who are scrutinized by police every year for the property they keep in their possession. This is one of the many ways that substance prohibition endangers the liberties of everyone in society — not just the inebriated.