Ross Lebeau's father stuffed two socks full of kitty litter— one for Ross and one for his sister. According to various life hack websites such as Lifehacker, filling a sock full of silica-based kitty litter and leaving it in the car can help absorb the moisture inside and prevent the windows from fogging up.
And that's exactly why Lebeau's father left one of the kitty litter accessories in his son's car.
But when Texas deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Office pulled Ross over and reportedly smelled marijuana in his car, the accessory was believed to be much more.
According to ABC 13, Ross admitted to having marijuana in the car, and during a search of the vehicle, deputies discovered the sock filled with a “substance.” Ross claimed he had no idea what it was.
Police, however, believed they had discovered half a pound of methamphetamine.
Separate field tests of the unknown substance resulted in a positive identification for methamphetamine, reports MSN. Lebeau was sent to jail for three days before a third test from the Institute of Forensic Science confirmed that the contents of the kooky sock were in fact cat litter.
Lebeau claims that the embarrassing ordeal caused him to lose work. However, he and attorney George Reul, do not blame the authorities, and instead point to the need to update field testing equipment. Reul tells ABC 13:
“Ultimately it might be bad budget-cutting testing equipment they need to re-evaluate.”
The Harris County Sheriff's Office released a statement reiterating that deputies followed proper procedure, and that the charges against Lebeau would be dropped.
However, this isn't the first time field testing as part of proper protocol has resulted in a mistake.
Last year, a couple was arrested outside Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, for carrying $300,000 worth of cocaine. Routine field tests identified baking soda — which the wife had a penchant for storing in plastic bags— as the illegal substance. The couple was finally released once the state crime lab test confirmed that the substance was actually the common household item.
In that particular instance, deputies were using the NIK test—Narcotics Identification Test—which is notorious for false positives. KATV reports that a study from Florida's Law Enforcement Lab Systems found that the NIK test returned a false positive for meth for 21 percent of substances that later tested negative in a crime lab test.
It is unknown if the NIK test was used in Lebeau's case, but KATV reports that the $2 kit is all officers currently have to determine probable cause.