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Forensic Failures Can Happen at State Labs

Posted on Nov 11, 2015 in Criminal Defense

Forensic evidence, as defined by the National Institute of Justice, includes “information or objects that may be admitted into court for judges and juries to consider when hearing a case.” Examples can range from fingerprints to genetic materials to trace chemicals to forensic DNA. Many juries find forensic evidence convincing, especially in light of crime shows like CSI that paint a picture of foolproof technologies and techniques for evidence collection and testing. The reality, however, is that errors can be made and forensic evidence is often imperfect. A New Orleans criminal defense law firm will carefully consider any forensic evidence that prosecutors intend to use against you in a criminal case and will help you put together arguments that undermine the credibility of that evidence. In situations where you are able to introduce reasonable doubt about whether the forensic evidence was collected, tested and used properly, you may be able to avoid a conviction.

Forensic Failures Can Happen at State Labs

Forensic failures are a very real possibility. Just recently, ABC 7 published an article entitled: “Forensic Failures at State Crime Labs May Jeopardize Cases.” This particular article was focused on problems coming to light in a crime lab in Illinois, but similar errors and problems can happen anywhere nationwide. The crime lab that was the focus of the story was said to have made a “pattern of forensic failures.” The problems were first brought to light by a criminal defendant who received a ticket in an accident in 2011. The driver had undergone a sobriety test at the time, which revealed that his blood alcohol level was slightly over the legal limit. In investigating the test results, the driver's attorney found that a 2011 internal audit of the Illinois State Police Laboratories showed inaccuracies of blood test results. The internal audit had called for various corrective actions, including revising the “scientific method” used in the lab and ordering “in-service training for the state police toxicology section.” After the driver's attorney showed the information on the internal audit to the prosecutor, the prosecutor didn't bring the blood test evidence into the trial and the defendant was declared innocent of all charges. The charges could have led to 15 years in jail upon conviction. Other mistakes were also found by ABC 7, which examined internal lab audits and reports conducted by the Illinois State Police that went all the way back to 2003. Some of the errors included mislabeling specimens, switching test samples, mixing up results, calibrating tests improperly, using improper testing methods and wrongly destroying samples. It took an attorney to find the problems at this lab initially, and defendants will generally need a lawyer to help them uncover problems with evidence because attorneys have the legal experience and knowledge necessary to obtain insider data and investigate evidence. Any defendant accused of impaired driving or facing any criminal charges in which forensic evidence is used should strongly consider consulting with a criminal defense law firm to get assistance in finding ways to challenge the trueness and accuracy of the forensic science. Challenging the evidence could mean the difference between a conviction and walking free.

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