Imagine if the next time you are driving home from work you get pulled over for a routine traffic stop. Now, imagine being pulled over leads to you being accused of a crime that lands you in jail for months as you wait for the state to discover what you already know: you are totally innocent.
That is exactly what happened to Joseph Ray Burrell, a Minnesota man who was pulled over last November for driving without headlights.
A police officer from the city of Mankato, Minnesota pulled Burrell over as he left the parking lot of a local grocery store. The officer learned that Burrell had an outstanding arrest warrant for other charges, and began to search Burrell’s vehicle. He found a small bag of “crystal shards,” which he believed to be crystal meth. An inexpensive (and apparently inaccurate) field drug test confirmed his suspicions. The officer placed Burrell under arrest for two counts of felony drug possession, never realizing that the suspect’s “crystal shards” were simply vitamins.
Burrell ended up spending more than two months in jail with his bail being set at $250,000.
While it is clear that Burrell got the short end of the stick in this situation, the story may not be as clear cut as it seems.
This may have been a case in which the police officer experienced what psychologists called “confirmation bias.” Confirmation bias is when you interpret new evidence as fitting in with your pre-existing beliefs.
In Burrell’s case, he had a warrant out for his arrest for fleeing from an officer on foot. However, he was also awaiting trial for two other charges related to dealing methamphetamine.
After running Burrell’s driver’s license, the police officer would have been aware of his arrest warrant and legal status, given the other charges he was facing. At that point, the officer was going to apply more scrutiny to this traffic stop. Finding the white powder seemingly confirmed his belief that Burrell was a drug dealer.
This unfortunate situation led an innocent man to spend time in jail away from his work, friends, and family. In this case, preventing the situation may have been impossible and law enforcement is guilty of a miscarriage of justice.
On the other hand, you can make a choice to take care of the problems in your life that will lead to trouble with the law. One of the most common sources of legal trouble is substance abuse.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, call Banyan Treatment Center today. Whether or not you have already got in trouble with the law, you can take the steps to starting a new life now. View insurance coverage for rehab with Banyan today.