Man falsely jailed for trafficking cocaine after false positive field test considering suit

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) - A false positive during a roadside drug test landed a man in jail. Now that man is considering to file a lawsuit.

Virgilio Bautista was facing decades behind bars for an item many people purchase over the counter.

“Just to consider the thought of considering prison or just considering the fact that this could go wrong — that’s what I’m facing,” said Bautista, whose charges were later dropped.

Bautista, 28, spent the final months of 2019 facing the possibility of spending 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

“It was very stressful, just a lot of anxiety,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was being set up or what was going on.”

He was stopped by authorities in Lee County last August.

In his lunchbox, there were two powdery substances — caffeine powder and creatine. Both are perfectly legal.

Confident he had nothing to hide, he allowed deputies to search his car.

They field tested the powders and both came back positive for cocaine.

“Worse is they combined the weight of what was in both canisters that came back to 161 grams,” said attorney Mark Eiglarsh. “Which means he was charged with trafficking in cocaine.”

The construction worker and father of two found himself in jail held on $32,000 bond.

After scraping enough to post bond, he had to hire an attorney. Thankfully, he found a good one.

“I pleaded with them, ‘Do not file charges solely based upon field tests,'” said Eiglarsh. “The Department of Justice has warned prosecutors and law enforcement that those field tests are inherently unreliable.”

But they filed anyway.

It wasn’t until three months later — after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined no controlled substances were found — that prosecutors dropped the charges.

“It was a real big relief,” said Bautista. “As soon as I got the phone call, it was a really good feeling.”

Bautista and his attorney are now considering filing a civil suit.

“Hopefully they can figure out a policy change, so it doesn’t happen to people,” said Bautista.

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