What are Chain of Custody Errors and How can They Impact my Criminal Case?

February 6, 2022 Criminal Defense

The prosecution is required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That being said, evidence provided by the prosecution plays a significant role in the trajectory of your criminal case. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that evidence is handled properly from the time it is collected by police, often when you are arrested, until the time it is used in court.

What are Chain of Custody Errors?

Chain of custody errors occur when law enforcement fails to follow procedures regarding the collection, storage, transfer, or testing of evidence. Before the prosecution can submit evidence at trial, they must authenticate the evidence by establishing the evidence is not flawed by any chain of custody errors. Because evidence plays such a foundational role in a criminal case, the state must be able to provide an account for exactly who came into contact with the evidence, as well as if the proper protocols were followed when those instances occurred.

Chain of custody errors often include the following:

  • Contaminated Crime Scene – Law enforcement may fail to properly secure a crime scene, resulting in the outside public, or even individuals working on the case who should not be in designated areas, contaminating the evidence at the crime scene.
  • Failure to Properly Document Evidence – Law enforcement may fail to properly document each and every piece of evidence in their possession. Furthermore, they may fail to properly identify the location it was found in or the person it was found on. Law enforcement may also mistakenly label the evidence as something it is not. This may include law enforcement failing to detail precisely where the evidence was found or what case it pertains to.
  • Improper Handling of Evidence – Law enforcement may fail to properly handle physical evidence with gloves, or fail to gather the evidence with sterilized equipment, rendering the evidence contaminated.
  • Improper Storage of Evidence – Law enforcement may fail to properly store evidence in a place or manner in which it will remain intact and untainted.

What Remedies are Available for Chain of Custody Errors?

Ensuring that evidence has not been tampered with is imperative in protecting a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. A fair trial can only be provided if the evidence presented is valid and untampered with. If you believe the evidence in your case has been mishandled as a result of a chain of custody error, your attorney may choose to file a motion to have that flawed evidence suppressed. This means that the unreliable evidence will not be allowed in the courtroom.

Furthermore, if there are minor issues with the chain of custody that may not support a motion to suppress, the chain of custody issues may be presented to the jury, allowing the jury to render their own opinion on whether the mishandling of the evidence is a key factor that should be considered when determining your guilt.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it is imperative you contact an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney that will ensure that chain of custody issues will not have a negative impact on your case. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience defending Floridians against state criminal charges and will ensure all possible legal avenues are explored in your favor. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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