Arrests and Chain of Custody of Evidence

Chain of Custody

In a prosecution for a drug related offense the People must prove at trial that the chain of custody has not been broken in that the evidence (drugs) has not been tampered with and remains in the same condition as it was during the arrest. This requirement is very important to the best criminal defense as it pertains to any drug or possession of a controlled substance case.

An example of chain of custody is as follows; a suspect is arrested because drugs are found on there person. The arresting officer marks the evidence and places it in an evidence bag. The officer will usually deliver the evidence to a "evidence locker" in the police department. The next link in the chain of custody would be the officer who logs the evidence in from the locker to the police department log book. The next link in the chain would be the officer who signs the evidence out of the "evidence locker" and takes the evidence for testing. The next link is the person who accepted the evidence for testing and every person at the testing facility who handled the evidence. Of course the chain must be complete for the return to the police department and delivery to the District Attorney on the day of trial. Any break in this chain could result in suppression of evidence due to the possibility that the evidence was tampered with.

In People v Layou, 71 AD3d 1382 the court held it was an error to admit cocaine found on the defendant and at the arrest scene because there were deficiencies in the chain of custody.

The arresting officer testified about bringing the drugs from the arrest scene to the police station and leaving them on a table in a room. He also testified that about a month later he took the drugs from the station to the crime lab for testing. The arresting officer did not have personal knowledge of where the drugs were during that month and no other officers testified about the storage of the drugs during that time. Therefore, there was no assurance that the seized drugs were the ons tested at the crime lab.

This is an example of the break in the chain of custody.

The best criminal defense lawyers will review and attack at trial the chain of custody.