If the state intends to bring charges against an individual, that typically means there is evidence implicating them. Chemical and physical evidence, in particular, can make people feel as though they will have no way to defend against pending charges.
If police officers found DNA or fingerprints at a crime scene, that can seem like very authoritative evidence implicating someone in criminal activity. All too often, those accused of criminal offenses
plead guilty because they think they have no way of fighting the state’s allegations. However, small errors with evidence can make a big difference for someone accused of breaking the law.
Mistakes when collecting or handling evidence matter
If police officers don’t follow best practices, defendants may be in a good position to question the accuracy or validity of the state’s evidence. When police discover a crime scene, they typically need to secure it to prevent access by members of the general public.
Oftentimes, hours are even days may have passed since the alleged criminal incident, raising questions about when someone may have left fingerprints or biological materials at a crime scene. The possible contamination of a crime scene can raise questions about the usefulness of the evidence that police officers gather.
Additionally, if officers don’t follow the appropriate steps while gathering, transporting, storing and testing evidence, those mistakes can affect the usefulness of that evidence during a criminal trial. Chain of custody issues undermine the usefulness of state evidence.
Maintaining a very clear chain of custody without any gaps is of the utmost importance for the preservation of the evidence gathered by the state. Gaps and mistakes in the chain of custody records for evidence can lead to a defense attorney undermining its credibility or preventing its inclusion during a criminal trial. They might even bring in expert witnesses to explore how crime scene contamination and other issues could impact the credibility of the prosecution’s claims.
Criminal defendants often think that they cannot defend against charges if they know the state has strong evidence. Even those who maintain their innocence may plead guilty because they feel as though they would need to fight an uphill battle. Yet, seeking legal guidance and understanding that even minor mistakes can lead to truly favorable outcomes can inspire individuals to fight back.