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Waldorf, Maryland, Criminal Law: What is Chain of Custody and How Can it Help My Criminal Defense?

When they are doing their jobs, Maryland police and law enforcement officials sometimes make mistakes and, when they do, an experienced Maryland criminal defense team can use those mistakes to help get criminal charges dismissed/dropped and to have evidence excluded from trial. For this article, we will assume the mistakes are honest and not something more nefarious.

One such mistake involves what is called chain of custody (“COC”). COC involves good and proper record-keeping for physical evidence seized at any point during the criminal investigation. As the evidence passes from “hand to hand,” records must be kept, and evidence must be secured from tampering and contamination. For example, if you are arrested here in Charles County, MD, and the arresting officers seize a “bag of white powder,” there must be a properly recorded COC for that particular “bag of white powder” before it can be used as evidence at your criminal trial. COC is necessary because, by mistake, a different “bag of white powder” might be used at your trial. COC is also necessary for everything related to the “bag of white powder,” including testing to determine what the white powder is. By the way, if you have been arrested or charged with a crime here in Charles County, call experienced and courtroom-proven Maryland criminal defense lawyers like the ones at the Law Office of Robert Castro. Our number is (301) 705-5137. We are available around the clock, 24/7.

COC is particularly important in Maryland DUI, Maryland DWI, and Maryland drug cases. In those types of Maryland criminal cases — and in others — one of the elements of the crime is that the “white powder” is a prohibited drug or that the person charged was drunk or impaired by drugs. This element must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the Maryland criminal court prosecutors. With a Maryland DUI/DWI charge, COC must be demonstrated with any blood or other fluid taken from the person charged. The blood/fluid is sent to a crime lab for testing. It has absolutely happened that vials of blood have been mislabeled or contaminated by blood/fluid from other cases. So, without proper COC, you could be convicted based on testing results of someone else’s blood/fluid. The same is true in drug cases. Your “bag of white powder” can be mislabeled or mixed with white powder from some other Maryland criminal arrest case. The defendant is then convicted based on the test results of someone else’s “white powder.”

How does COC help my criminal defense?

Essentially, if the prosecutors cannot prove a proper COC, then a Maryland criminal court judge will be required to exclude the evidence. So, the “white powder” cannot be used at your trial. This can lead to charges being dropped and Maryland criminal cases being dismissed. Alternatively, the lack of evidence at trial can lead to a “not guilty” verdict from a Maryland criminal court jury.

There are other types of mistakes that can generate similar results. For example, were the testing machines properly calibrated? Were the machines, tools, and implements properly reset and cleaned between tests?

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD, Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD, 20601.