When the police make a drug bust and seize evidence, we should all be able to trust that the evidence will be properly handled so it can be used accurately and honestly in the resulting criminal case. When evidence is tainted, mishandled, or even falsified, it corrupts the criminal justice process and, all too often, leads to the wrongful conviction of innocent defendants. Recently, there are more signs that now-defunct Detroit narcotics division was seriously corrupted and could not be trusted to handle evidence properly.
The Narcotics Section was shut down in 2014 due to suspicions of corruption, and the investigation into the misconduct is ongoing. Some misconduct previously uncovered involves officers stealing drugs and money that had been seized in drug busts. Investigators recently seized more data and records from the police department after the indictment of yet another officer.
The indictment alleges that the longtime officer was taking bribes from drug traffickers, collecting money from abandoned homes in the Detroit area. In exchange for the cash, the officer did not report seizing heroin and cocaine and did not seek charges against the traffickers.
Another target of the ongoing investigation is a large shipment of drugs that were seized by Detroit officers and tested positive as a controlled substance. However, when the drug evidence arrived in Chicago for the federal criminal case, the drugs had been switched for another substance. The whereabouts of the original evidence and who switched the substances are yet unknown.
While you might like to believe that evidence would be consistent from seizure to trial, the above indicates that this is not always the case. Sometimes, the evidence is misplaced, mislabeled, or mishandled due to an honest mistake. Other times, such inconsistencies are the result of police corruption.
If you are facing any type of charges involving drug evidence – or any other type of physical evidence – it is critical to have a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Part of your defense should be examining evidence and police procedures for any signs of inaccuracies, errors, or wrongful conduct.
When evidence is introduced in court, it is essential to identify whether or not that evidence is the same as originally collected and has not been altered. This involves examining the chain of custody, which tracks the exact path of the evidence through the police department and crime lab, including who was in possession of the evidence at all times. If law enforcement officers and the prosecutor cannot show the chain of custody, the evidence should be called into question. Additionally, when evidence needs to be tested by a forensic lab, a defense attorney might also have the evidence tested by their own expert to corroborate the findings of the lab.
At Nickola Law, we provide a thorough and aggressive defense for our clients facing a wide range of criminal charges. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you.
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