Chain of custody refers to how law enforcement officers handle items of evidence during an investigation. When the police fail to follow proper procedures when dealing with evidence, it could give rise to chain of custody errors.
The possibility that the evidence against you could have been flawed at some point could make it lose its credibility before the court.
How can errors in the chain of custody happen?
Chain of custody errors can occur during the collection, transfer, storage or testing of evidence. When the police seize evidence, they must document everything by making a physical inventory and taking photographs. If the evidence is submitted to forensic tests, there must be appropriate records indicating all the parties involved. Such evidence must also be stored appropriately.
Lack of proper documentation, the loss of some of the evidence obtained at the crime scene or gaps in the chain of custody are examples of scenarios when such errors may occur.
What could this mean for your case?
Evidence affected by errors in the chain of custody may be inadmissible in court. What this means is that the said evidence will not be used against you by the prosecution in proving your guilt.
If the court excludes key evidence from your trial, the prosecution may resort to reducing or dropping your charges. The legal threshold of guilt in criminal cases is pretty high – beyond a reasonable doubt – and it may be impossible to meet such standards without some or all evidence.
Are you or a loved one facing criminal charges?
In the face of criminal charges, it is best to seek appropriate counsel to address the legal issues present in your case. Errors in the chain of custody could be the cornerstone of your defense, but you need the proper guidance to make it work.