Chain of Custody in Florida Criminal Cases
When you’ve been arrested on criminal charges, you may not think too much about the path that incriminating evidence takes from the scene of the crime to the courtroom. However, this “chain of custody” is an extremely crucial factor in a criminal case. The basis of the concept comes from the Florida Evidence Code, which requires that all exhibits be authenticated before they can be deemed admissible in court. There are multiple hands that evidence will pass through before being introduced as evidence. The point of a chain of custody is to ensure the people that handle it don’t take advantage of the situation, preventing you from getting a fair trial.
Your Florida criminal defense lawyer will protect your rights if there are any disruptions in the journey evidence takes from the point it’s seized from you – up to the date of your trial. You might also find it useful to review some basic information about the chain of custody.
Overview of Chain of Custody: As you may know, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To meet this standard, the prosecution must present evidence, often in the form of physical items. These exhibits don’t just show up in the courtroom for the judge or jury to consider: They must be authenticated, which means there must be proof that the item is what it purports to be – and hasn’t been altered in any way somewhere along the way.
The chain of custody describes who had possession of the exhibit, such as:
- When police take it, presumably at your arrest;
- How officers transported the exhibit from the scene to a storage area;
- Who was in charge of the transfer into a storage locker; and,
- How the evidence was reclaimed from storage and transported to the courthouse.
Any disruptions or inconsistencies are broken links in the chain of custody, which could lead to the exhibit being inadmissible in court. Without this evidence, the prosecutor may not be able to prove the case-in-chief against you.
Chain of Custody in Florida Criminal Cases: Admissibility and evidence custody issues are especially critical with certain types of offenses, such as:
- Drunk driving, since the results of a chemical test are important evidence for showing that your blood alcohol level (BAC) was above the legal limit;
- Drug crimes cases, where the controlled substances are an essential element of the crime;
- Sex offenses, in which DNA evidence, rape kits, and other exhibits are necessary to prove the identity of the alleged perpetrator.
Talk to a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today
You could face prison time, fines, and other penalties in a Florida criminal case, which is why you can’t allow inconsistencies in the chain of custody lead to an unfair trial. Mistakes with evidence serve as a solid defense, but there may be other strategies for fighting the charges. For more information, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances and discuss how to proceed.