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How chain of custody errors can render evidence inadmissible

Evidence forms a vital part of any trial. Given that the prosecution needs to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the evidence brought against you may make the difference between an acquittal or conviction. If such evidence is inadmissible, you can file a motion to have it suppressed, and it will no longer be part of your case.

The key thing here is not having to prove your innocence. Instead, it is a defense strategy that seeks to take away from the prosecution’s case against you.

What is a chain of custody error?

Basically, chain of custody errors are mistakes that occur in the process of finding, handling and moving evidence. Evidence must be properly cared for and documented by law enforcement in the lead-up to its use in a trial. Any failure to do that may have it considered flawed, hence not admissible in court.

Possible errors in the chain of custody include:

  • Mislabelled evidence. The police might mistakenly label a piece of evidence regarding where it was sourced and the case it belongs to.
  • A contaminated crime scene. Law enforcement may fail to secure a crime scene, leading to tampering with the evidence by third parties not involved in the case. For example, members of the public may interfere with a crime scene if the police fail to cordon the area off.
  • Improper handling or storage of evidence. Physical evidence that was handled without gloves may be contaminated. In addition, some types of evidence like DNA may deteriorate when evidence isn’t properly stored.

Improperly handled evidence generally cannot be used against you. The inadmissibility of evidence may lead to a better outcome than you originally expected in your case. Suppressing evidence is just among the several defense approaches you may employ in your case, but you should take time to learn about other ways you can mount a defense against the charges you are facing to determine which is best for you.