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March 24, 2014 04:53 PM

Should A Urine Test Lead To Drug Charges?

Vermillion, SD

The South Dakota Supreme Court is considering whether remnants of cocaine found in a urine sample are enough to convict a Spearfish man of drug possession.

An attorney for 25-year-old Sean Whistler says his client shouldn't have been found guilty because authorities never actually found cocaine during his 2012 DUI arrest.

"Your honors, there was no cocaine anywhere. There was no cocaine present in the truck. There was no cocaine on Mr. Whistler's person," Matthew Pike with the Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office said.

Spearfish Police pulled over Whistler in March of 2012. He had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit and marijuana was found inside his vehicle.

A urine test later found Whistler also had something called benzoylecgonine in his system, which is a metabolite of cocaine. As a result, Whistler was also charged and convicted of possessing cocaine. Pike argues the same substance can be found in tap water and over-the-counter medications and his client should have never been found guilty.

"When people are now convicted in our state for possession of a controlled substance specifying cocaine when there is no cocaine anywhere that seems to be an absurd result," Pike said.

"Possession occurs if a person knowingly possesses an altered state of a drug or substance absorbed into the human body," Assistant South Dakota Attorney General John Strohman argued.

Strohman told the justices that state law allows for drug possession charges for any controlled substance properties found inside a suspect's system. Strohman insists Whistler has no argument.

"Our state legislature has passed a statute saying to the contrary; appellants problem is with the legislature," Strohman said.

Whistler's attorney also argued that there is no way to prove how the substance got into his client's system, something the state's own witness admitted during the trial.

It will take several weeks for the justices to make their final ruling in the case.

Read the legal briefs in the case by clicking here. 

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