The process of collecting, storing, and transporting evidence before its presentation in court is known as the chain of custody. It is critical in criminal cases because it establishes the authenticity and reliability of the evidence, which can ultimately determine the court’s verdict.
Below is a brief description of the chain of custody and why it matters, especially in drug cases.
The chain of custody explained
The chain of custody starts with collecting evidence at the crime scene. It may include drugs, drug paraphernalia, money and other relevant items. It is crucial that the evidence is well handled to prevent contamination or damage that would affect its integrity.
Once the evidence is collected, it is typically sealed in a bag and labeled with identifying information such as the name of the officer who collected it, the date and time of collection and other necessary details. This ensures that the evidence can be tracked and identified throughout the chain of custody.
Finally, the evidence is transported to a crime lab or other facility for testing. Any exchange of hands is also documented. After testing, the evidence is stored in a secure location, awaiting presentation at trial.
Why is it important to your case?
If mistakes in the chain of custody lead to the contamination or loss of the evidence, you can challenge the admissibility of such evidence in court. A judge will not allow questionable evidence to be used at trial, and it’s up to the prosecution to prove that the evidence obtained from the crime scene is what is before the court. As a result, it may be difficult to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The importance of having experienced legal counsel
Successfully challenging the admissibility of evidence could significantly affect the direction of your charges, but trust the prosecution to put up a spirited fight. Evidence is crucial to the prosecution’s case, and suppressing it weakens their position.
As such, it is prudent to have sound legal representation for help in assessing the possibility of suppressing the evidence against you and exploring other viable defenses in your favor.