February 1, 2014

Video of Florida Drug Lab Scandal

Video of Florida Department of Law Enforcement FDLE Drug Crime Lab Scandal - 2600 cases may be impacted statewide. FDLE Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey announced that FDLE has begun a review of all cases processed by a chemist in FDLE’s  Crime Laboratory.  http://youtu.be/lxeXMhVhDYA . There are three big questions:

What Happened to Evidence in a Florida Drug Crime Lab?

Why is it important that Chemist Properly handle Drugs in a Drug Crime Prosecution?

Is a Chemist Required to Testify in a Florida Drug Case? 

 

What Happened to Evidence in a Florida Drug Crime Lab?

Last week, FDLE began an investigation into missing prescription pain pills from the evidence room.  The missing drugs had been replaced with over-the-counter medications.

Why is it important that Chemist Properly handle Drugs in a Drug Crime Prosecution?

To make sure the substance is actually a controlled substance and to establish the weight / quantity. Many sentences in Florida are determined by the amount of detectable drug found in the evidence sample tested by the FDLE chemist. Under Florida law, the defense has a "constitutional right to confront his accusers in a criminal trial. See Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 404 (1965) (declaring that the right of cross-examination is one of the safeguards essential to a fair trial). Drug or alcohol tests performed in the usual course of hospital business are admissible in criminal cases under the business records exception. See Baber v. State , 775 So. 2d 258, 260-261 (Fla. 2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 1022 (2001) (stating that "[t]he majority rule among state courts is that drug or alcohol tests performed in the usual course of business of a hospital are admissible in criminal cases" because if they are presumed trustworthy for medical treatment, they are admissible as business records.) However, extending this exception to a FDLE lab records custodian in a criminal proceeding would threaten Rivera's right under the Confrontation Clause to question the witness to ensure a fair trial."

Issues that must be addressed in court are, "questions concerning chain of custody, methods of scientific testing, and analytical procedures regarding the contraband at issue. In criminal drug prosecutions, "the State tests alleged drug samples to incriminate and convict the accused.the State tests alleged drug samples to incriminate and convict the accused."

The FDLE Crime Lab Manual states, "Laboratory examination of evidence will determine the presence or absence of controlled substances , the amount of controlled substance present as required by law or by special request." The Manual Requires, "If plastic packaging is used, it must be a commercial plastic bag with a minimum of 2.5 mil thickness or a glue sealed commercial evidence bag. Paper bags and manila envelopes must have all seams properly sealed." Other requirements include, "package items for examination separately in appropriately sized containers and seal the outer container for the group of items to protect chain of custody. . . . attach the submission form to the outside of the sealed package to protect the chain of custody." Excerpts from the FDLE CRIME LABORATORY EVIDENCE SUBMISSION MANUAL From Florida Department of Law Enforcement Gerald M. Bailey, Commissioner 2009.

Is a Chemist Required to Testify in a Florida Drug Case? 

Answer is Sometimes,  the Chemist must testify in a Florida Drug Crime Trial..

Check out the case below and here for more details on this problem in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Lab. State's use of a laboratory report, "in lieu of testimony, is prohibited during a criminal prosecution to prove that the substance in the accused's possession was contraband." 


Florida Department of Law Enforcement  FDLE Public Service Announcement


On Thursday Jan. 30, investigators determined that each case with missing drugs had been analyzed by one FDLE chemist. FDLE is reviewing evidence from all cases handled by this chemist between 2006 and present. State attorneys so that they may need to take appropriate action regarding pending cases. FDLE will inspect all evidence handled by the chemist to confirm cases potentially compromised.  The chemist worked nearly 2,600 cases for 80 law enforcement agencies spanning 35 counties and 12 judicial circuits.







List of Affected Counties

Alachua County                                                          
Bay County
Calhoun County
Charlotte County
Collier County
Columbia County
Desoto County
Escambia County
Franklin County
Gadsden County
Glades County
Gulf County
Hamilton County
Hendry County
Hernando County
Highlands County
Holmes County
Jackson County
Lafayette County
Lake County
Lee County
Leon County
Madison County
Marion County
Monroe County
Okaloosa County
Osceola County
Pasco County
Santa Rosa County
Sumter County
Suwannee County
Taylor County
Wakulla County
Walton County
Washington County