Crime labs are responsible for processing DNA, blood, and other evidence from a crime scene. The evidence they submit to a court can be the difference between a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict. While there have been countless cases that point to fraud and errors behind the scenes of crime labs, a current case sheds light on potential corruption. According to reports, a Florida state crime lab chemist has been arrested on drug charges, including theft and distribution. As always, any defendant is innocent until proven guilty. While this case is an example of potential corruption behind the scenes, it is also important to remember that the lab defendant has been charged, but not yet convicted of a crime.
The criminal justice system is complicated and has many players, including police officers, detectives, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, juries, expert witnesses, and state and private crime lab employees. Unfortunately, the system and the individuals are not always aimed at achieving justice. In this recent case, a former Florida crime lab analyst was arrested and charged with theft and distribution of prescription painkillers that were in his possession for testing. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneysknow that evidence can be tainted, returning unjust results for defendants. We make it a priority to perform an extensive investigation, question facts and evidence, and fight for a fair trial for our clients. Our attorneys are also dedicated to staying abreast of criminal cases that shed light on corruption and issues within the criminal justice system.
According to reports, the defendant was employed by the state crime lab as a chemist. He was arrested the day after his resignation and is facing felony theft charges, 12 counts of tampering with evidence, and 9 counts of illegal drug trafficking. An investigation ensued after the county sheriff’s department discovered that the painkillers were missing. After an initial inquiry, it was determined that the Oxycontin, morphine, and other prescriptions were replaced with over the counter drugs.
The physical drug evidence was to be used in cases against alleged drug offenders and the alleged theft and sale could have compromised drug crimes cases throughout the state. The defendant is currently being held on a $290,000 bond. Reports indicated that he had been working for the department since 2005 and was promoted in 2009. The alleged theft and sale of prescription medications could have impacted 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties throughout Florida. Many of the drug charges could be dropped if defense teams can ensure the stolen and tampered evidence is dismissed.
The arrest has prompted a full investigation, requiring agents from each office to review cases handled by the state chemist. Law enforcement agencies with pending drug related cases may have to deal with compromised cases. For defendants, the breach could result in their conviction being dismissed or a sentence reduction. According to officials, employees are given mandatory drug tests upon hiring; however they are not required to continue to take drug tests unless they are suspected of drug use.