Thousands of criminal cases compromised in Florida?
Many criminal cases often turn on important, tangible evidence. For example, many drug investigations depend on the evaluation of materials found at the scene of the investigation or purported crime. In many cases, a criminal lab must assess and inspect evidence in an effort to confirm or dispute whether the materials are, in fact, criminal in nature.
Recently, a Florida crime lab employee resigned just as local authorities discovered a lab was missing crucial drug evidence. The employee submitted a letter of resignation a few days after the agency began investigating missing evidence. This internal compromise may have jeopardized several criminal cases.
The former employee, a chemist for the Florida Law Enforcement Department, is accused of swapping nonprescription drugs with prescription pain medications. Now, authorities are concerned about exactly how many criminal cases could have been affected by this purported misconduct.
At this time, the agency is forced to review approximately 2,600 criminal matters that the employee handled. The evidence involves 35 counties and 80 law enforcement units.
The importance of evidence in a drug case
Most drug matters turn on evidence. If evidence has been tampered with, this could affect the fate of one’s criminal matter. This is alarming, as drug crimes in Florida come equipped with severe penalties.
For example, most persons are ordered to a jail sentence upon a conviction. Florida and federal laws include mandatory minimum sentences for many drug cases, depending on the specific charge. Moreover, those found guilty of a drug crime in Florida may experience the following consequences:
- Loss of the right to drive a vehicle
- Potential loss of or visitation rights
- Removal and deportation proceedings for undocumented immigrants and those who hold a green card
These are only a few of the hurdles experienced by convicted offenders.
Criminal charges are based on the principle that a person is not acting in accordance with the law. However, when authorities do not follow crucial evidentiary rules, they, in fact, are not acting in line with just criminal proceedings. This could mean a person who is innocent of a crime is wrongfully found guilty and stripped of his or her rights.
If you have been accused of a crime in Florida, you should ensure that your case is handled efficiently. It is imperative that all evidence is assessed and evaluated under the right parameters and applicable rules of evidence. To help protect your case, contact an experienced defense attorney in the area.