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Minnesota Man Spends Months in Prison After Cops Mistake His Vitamins for Drugs

Arrested in November on drug possession charges, Joseph Burrell was imprisoned until February over a suspicious powder that a lab ultimately determined to be vitamins.

by VICE News
Feb 17 2015, 7:55pm

Photo by Kurtis Garbutt/Flickr

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A Minnesota man was freed and charges against him dropped after crime lab results determined that the drugs he was arrested for carrying were in fact legal vitamins.

Joseph Burrell, 31, was driving out of a supermarket parking lot on November 14 when police pulled him over for driving without his lights on, the Mankato Free Press reported.

After searching Burrell's car, officers found a half-ounce bag of suspicious powder that they said tested positive for amphetamine in a preliminary field test. Police said a warrant was also out for Burrell's arrest; it was issued after he failed to appear in court on an earlier charge of fleeing police on foot.

Burrell admitted to officers that he had previously used drugs, but insisted that he was clean. He said he had been prescribed the vitamin powder to help treat a chronically sore shoulder. Despite his protestation, police arrested him and charged him with two counts of felony possession of drugs.

It reportedly took a month for authorities to send the powder into testing, and another month before the results were relayed to police. Burrell remained in jail the entire time. Once the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime lab conducted a more thorough testing, results showed the powder contained legal over-the-counter vitamins and police dropped the charges against Burrell on February 4.

"I had been sitting in the jail since November with my bail set at $250,000," Burrell told the Free Press. "Then, two days before trial, they dropped the charges and let me go."

Photo via Flickr