Why is chain-of-custody evidence important to your Boston criminal defense lawyer?
If the prosecutor is building his case against you based on forensic evidence, your Boston criminal defense lawyer will closely examine the chain of custody. A break in the chain of custody may fatally undermine the reliability of the evidence and the defense lawyer may file a motion to suppress that evidence.
The “chain of custody” is the “roadmap” for the evidence gathered in a criminal case. By following the chain of custody, you can see where an item of evidence has been from the moment it was collected to the time it is offered as evidence in a criminal trial. Proper chain of custody evidence must establish:
- Who collected the evidence;
- How collection occurred – what procedures, techniques, and safeguards were used;
- Where and when law enforcement or investigators collected the evidence;
- Where and when law enforcement or investigators stored the evidence;
- When – each and every time – the evidence was moved, transported, examined, repackaged, etc., and by whom.
Testimony regarding the chain of custody is used to authenticate an item of physical evidence – that is, to establish that the evidence is what it purports to be. If the evidence cannot be authenticated, then it cannot be relied upon as trustworthy by a judge or jury, thereby potentially severely undermining the value of any forensic expert testimony. Any number of events or factors could break the chain of custody. For example, an investigator may have waited too long to collect certain types of evidence. The evidence may have been improperly stored (e.g., not refrigerated) or left unattended for a period of time. DNA can be an especially fragile type of trace evidence because of the small sample sizes and potential for contamination.
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