What Is “Chain of Custody” and How Does It Apply to a Drug Possession Defense?

A solid drug possession defense begins with a thorough review of the prosecution’s evidence, which an experienced criminal defense attorney will complete with an air of skepticism, particularly in light of Florida’s current ‘chain of custody’ laws.

The concept of ‘chain of custody’ was first discussed in the context of federal constitutional criminal procedure and has since been applied in all 50 states to help protect criminal defendants from convictions based on unreliable or compromised evidence.

In the context of a drug possession charge, the prosecution’s failure to properly establish chain of custody from the time of arrest or seizure to the time of the trial could prove fatal to the case, resulting in the exclusion of that evidence and the possible dismissal of the action all together. If you were recently charged for possession of illegal drugs in Florida and would like to discuss a possible defense strategy, be sure to contact the Fowler Law Group right away.

Establishing Chain of Custody

When seeking a conviction for possession of an illegal drug, the state must prove several elements of the crime as listed in the Florida Penal Code. One of the most pivotal aspects of a drug possession trial is proving that the defendant did, in fact, possess the type of drug listed in the charging document (which may require a forensic analysis in certain situations).

When this occurs, the state must thoroughly document the location of the illegal drug from the moment it is seized until the time of trial, including a list of who handled the sample and whether it was moved, relocated or potentially compromised during the trial preparation period.

Poor documentation and recordkeeping on the part of the prosecution can lead to a host of potential opportunities for Bradenton criminal defense attorneys. For instance, an attorney may be able to exploit these “breaks” in the chain of custody to create reasonable doubt as to whether the sample is, in fact, the same contraband allegedly found on the defendant at the time of arrest. When raising a challenge over chain of custody, the following questions may be raised:

  • Was the sample mixed or switched with another sample?
  • Did forensic analysts follow established protocols in testing the sample?
  • Was the sample properly stored?
  • Is the sample used at trial the same allegedly seized from the defendant?
  • Was the sample properly labeled in order to ensure it was not mixed with contraband seized from other individuals in the jurisdiction?

These inquiries and many more are often available to help a criminal defense attorney successfully motion to exclude not only drugs, but other types of illegal contraband, as well as blood, tissue, and DNA samples to be used against a defendant.

For Help With Your Defense, Contact the Fowler Law Group Today!

At the Fowler Law Group, we offer unparalleled criminal defense in the Bradenton and Sarasota areas. To contact our Sarasota office, call (941) 900-3100.

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