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Chain Of Custody Errors: What They Are And How They Can Impact Your Criminal Case


If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, the prosecution has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted. And to prove its case, the prosecution needs evidence. If the police have some kind of physical evidence the prosecution can use against you, you may be worried about whether and how you can fight against your charges. Because of this worry, you may be considering pleading guilty to get a reduced sentence. Before you do anything you could regret, you should know that sometimes the police make mistakes when handling physical evidence, which can give rise to a chain of custody errors, which can, in turn, impact your case. Before pleading guilty or doing something else you might regret, work with a skilled defense attorney to analyze the records for how evidence was gathered, stored, transferred, and tested. Errors in this process could provide you with a strong defense you can use to fight your charges.

Defining Chain of Custody

The chain of custody is the chronological sequence in which criminal evidence should be handled. Chain of custody is the order of procedure that evidence collected by the police must go through to maintain its authenticity. The chain of custody is critical because it helps ensure evidence is what it claims to be. It aims to ensure that evidence has been properly handled and tested and hasn’t been tampered with or altered.

Chain of Custody Errors

When the police do not follow procedures regarding gathering, storing, transferring, and testing evidence, chain of custody errors are said to have occurred. The following are some possible mistakes in the chain of custody;

  • A contaminated crime scene: After a crime is committed, the police must secure the crime scene. Law enforcement officers are required to prevent people from interfering with the scene, tampering with evidence, or contaminating the evidence. Failure to do so results in a chain of custody error.
  • Failing to properly document evidence: For example, it is a chain of custody error if the police do not properly identify where a piece of evidence was found or the person the evidence was found on.
  • Failure to correctly label evidence: For instance, it is a chain of custody error if a police officer mistakenly labels a piece of evidence as something it is not.
  • Failing to handle evidence properly: Physical evidence may become contaminated if a police officer touches it without gloves or collects it without sterilized equipment.
  • Failing to store evidence properly: The police may fail to store evidence in a place or manner in which it will remain intact. For example, wet or moist evidence packaged in plastic can provide a growth environment for bacteria that can destroy DNA evidence.

What if There Are Chain of Custody Errors?

If you find that mistakes have occurred during the collection, storage, transfer, or testing of evidence, your defense attorney can file a motion to suppress any flawed evidence. If evidence is considered inadmissible in court, it may lead to a better outcome than you expected initially.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, it is crucial that you contact a criminal defense attorney. Our experienced NYC criminal attorney, Mark I. Cohen, can help you determine if the police made any mistakes that can impact your case’s outcome.

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