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What is a chain of custody in drug cases?

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2023 | Drug Offenses |

Missouri takes drug cases very seriously, and anyone found possessing illegal substances can face felony charges. Nevertheless, the law continues to protect the rights of defendants. Anyone who faces criminal charges has a right to a fair trial. This includes presenting legally obtained and properly preserved evidence in court. But what if there is suspicion of tampering with evidence?

Chain of custody

In drug cases, the chain of custody refers to the continuity of possession of evidence, usually of the illegal substance, starting from its seizure until its presentation in court. The in-betweens can include transportation, laboratory examinations and storage.

It is important that anyone who comes in contact with the evidence has the legal authority to do so and handles it with care. Moreover, the custodian should ensure a consistent account of activities involving the evidence. This is possible through proper documentation such as consistent evidence logs, which helps ensure the authenticity and integrity of evidence.

What if there is an irregularity?

Evidence plays a substantial role in drug cases. If the chain of custody is broken, meaning there is improper handling, transfer or storage of evidence that exposes it to any form of tampering, it will be held inadmissible as evidence in court. It is important to note that the burden of proof is on the defense to sufficiently show the court that there is an irregularity in the chain of custody.

Right to a fair trial

Any irregularity in the chain of custody of evidence impedes the defendant’s right to a fair trial. It is important for parties to be aware of the timeline of custody and the details of each process to ensure the protection of civil rights.