Numerous drug cases across Florida have potentially been compromised due to an investigation involving a former analyst for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Pensacola lab who authorities have accused of tampering with evidence. Apparently the former analyst stole narcotics from evidence bags, and thereby compromised evidence to be used in various Florida drug trials. While the exact number of cases to be affected isn’t noted by sources, 35 different counties throughout the state are suspected of having compromised drug cases.
The integrity of evidence, of course, is of paramount concern in criminal defense cases. Because so much is at stake in trials involving drug crimes, potential evidence tampering can really harm prosecution’s case. It is possible that a number of the cases mentioned above will be dropped altogether.
Those who are accused of criminal offenses, particularly drug crimes, need to work with an attorney who is willing to look at every possible angle of the case, from the police investigation to the integrity of prosecutors’ evidence, to applicable defenses and protections available prior to trial. This also includes knowing how to preserve issues on record so that they can be brought up on appeal if necessary. All of this is important in building a strong defense case.
One protection that is sometimes invoked in drug cases is the ability to have evidence excluded from trial when that evidence was gathered illegally. The exclusionary rule, as it is called, often applies in cases where police failed to obtain a required search warrant. Taking advantage of this rule can serve to weaken prosecution’s case and give the defendant an advantage.
Regardless of the particulars of the case, it always pays to work with an experienced attorney. Doing so ensures that available protections will be taken advantage of and that this results in the best outcome possible under the circumstances.
Source: Star Tribune, “Tampering with drug evidence at Florida crime lab prompts changes across Florida,” Melissa Nelson-Gabriel, April 11, 2014.