The Importance of Chain Of Custody in Your Criminal Proceeding
In the criminal justice system, the statutes, rules and regulations regarding criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence are standards by which the system may help to ensure that criminal defendants have access to a fair and impartial justice. Having the standards codified within the criminal statutes and codes provides criminal defendants (and the attorneys representing them) a course of action and provides a sense of power while dealing with the adversarial state. Rules like “innocent until proven guilty” provide criminal defendants the opportunity to defend themselves against the state, which has the burden to prove that the criminal defendant is guilty (and not the other way around).
Rules of Evidence
Rules of evidence constitute one of the mechanisms during criminal proceedings that help to protect the rights of the criminal defendants. Rules of evidence have the purpose of dictating that only evidence that is material, relevant, and factual is admitted into the proceeding against the defendant; this is to ensure that evidence that is not material, relevant, or factual cannot land the defendant in jail because it would be against the tenets of the criminal justice system for a fair trial. It is up to the judge to determine which type of evidence may be admitted, pursuant to the rules of evidence.
Chain of Custody: Rule of Evidence
One of the rules that is not generally written about but has a serious impact is the chain of custody rule. The chain of custody rule requires that any evidence that has been found at the scene of a crime must be documented, registered and maintained by a specific subset of people who are trained to hold onto the evidence. Generally the chain of custody rule pertains to tangible objects that may be introduced into a criminal proceeding as evidence found at the crime scene. Chain of custody ensures that if a bloody knife is found at the scene of the crime, or a bag of cocaine, there is a paper trail documenting how the evidence was found, who found the evidence, and who brought the evidence from the scene to the evidence locker where it will be stored.
Ramifications of Breaking Chain of Custody
Ultimately, the idea is that if chain of custody is broken, there is a possibility that the evidence has been tampered with and therefore may no longer be in the same exact condition or state as found at the scene of the crime. The courts have noted, however, that just because chain of custody was broken, this does not lead automatically to the presumption that the evidence was tampered with and therefore not admissible. There must be evidence put forth demonstrating the likelihood of tampering with the tangible piece of evidence during the time that the object was unaccounted for.
Chain of Custody in the Headlines in Miami
The chain of custody rule has made headlines recently in an article published by the Miami Herald detailing the absence, disappearance and altering of 7,877 items. Liquor bottles were found filled with only water, and tens of thousands of dollars went missing, along with bicycles and weapons originally stored in the evidence room of the Sweetwater Police Department. The article reports, however, that the missing evidence items have not contributed to any issues with criminal prosecution cases as of yet.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale
Chain of custody is crucial and evidence that has been altered should be inadmissible. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik may be able to throw out evidence that may have been tampered with as a result of a break in chain of custody and ensure that the evidence is not unfairly used against you. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.