In the past few years, there have been a number of incidents across the country in which crime labs have been investigated for failing to adhere to standards and regulations. In such situations, when a crime lab is found to have acted improperly, evidence previously admitted in court must be reviewed.
Most recently, a drug lab in Massachusetts was closed, amid allegations that one of its chemists did not adhere to testing protocols for drug evidence. The crime lab was responsible for certifying drug evidence. In other words, the lab would test substances found as evidence and identify the type and quantity of the substance.
Now, many people previously convicted on drug charges, stemming from certifications made by the lab, may be able to dispute the determinations previously made by the lab. The state police spokesperson indicated a review will be conducted and prosecutors will be notified of the cases on which the chemist worked.
Crime labs in other areas around the country have faced similar problems. For instance, a lab in Detroit was closed a few years ago, after it was determined the lab was not properly handling the evidence. In addition, a lab tech in San Francisco was accused of taking cocaine from submitted evidence, resulting in the dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases.
Lab technicians who deliberately fail to follow established protocols, as police indicate was the case at the Massachusetts lab, may face criminal charges themselves. The state police spokesperson said, “We are concerned that in some of the cases, there’s a likelihood that justice was not served, that a defendant did not get a fair trial and that it’s possible that people may be incarcerated unjustly.”
Source: The Washington Post, “Closing of Mass. crime lab could jeopardize thousands of drug cases,” August 30, 2012.
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