Since the Industrial Revolution, society has advanced from a state in which most were unaware of why food spoiled, for instance, to a state in which refrigerators speak to their owners. Similarly, criminal prosecution has advanced from law enforcement questioning everyone in the vicinity of a crime to using science to figure out what happened and who is potentially responsible. Scientific-based evidence is referred to as forensic evidence. Although television crime dramas, such as Bones and the CSI: series, present the discovery of forensic evidence as a fait accompli to a conviction, in real life, such is not always the case. Forensic evidence can be challenged, and challenged successfully, and retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney can be crucial to having forensic evidence dismissed from a criminal matter. As part of this trend to forensic evidence, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has developed a ballistics database, which, to be effective, depends on data entry for a full and complete accounting of all firearms in the country. However, not every law enforcement agency is contributing to the database, thereby decreasing its effectiveness. A discussion of various types of forensic evidence, and how to challenge their admissibility in court, will follow below.
Common Types of Forensic Evidence
The California Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) operates ten regional laboratories for assisting law enforcement agencies that do not have access to in-house crime laboratories. As part of this system, the BFS collects evidence in the following areas:
- Controlled Substances and Clandestine Drugs. The BFS assists in providing examination and identification of illegal and seized drugs.
- The BFS can provide analysis of various types of physical evidence, including general biology (including latent prints and toxicology reports involving blood, breath and urine analysis), firearms/toolmarks, impression evidence (e.g., shoe prints and tire track), and trace evidence (e.g., hair, fiber, glass, fire debris, and gunshot residue).
- Digital Evidence. The BFS’s Digital Evidence program provides examination assistance of computers, mobile telephones, and other devices for forensic evidence of human trafficking, drug trafficking, child pornography and other crimes.
- DNA Analysis. The BFS provides analysis of biological evidence seized by law enforcement in criminal cases.
Challenging Forensic Evidence in a Criminal Matter
When forensic evidence is introduced, as with all allegations in the American system of justice, it is the proponent – the prosecution, in a criminal matter – that typically bears the burden to show the evidence is reliable. With regard to forensic evidence, proving the evidence is reliable requires proof the underlying scientific theory was valid and accepted by the relevant scientific community. Secondly, there must be proof the technique applying the theory was also valid. Finally, the proponent must show the technique was properly applied in the specific case. Other reliability factors include the existence of literature supporting or rejecting the theory and technique, the potential rate of error of the technique, confirmation of the technique by others, and the experience and skill level of the person who applied the technique. All of these factors can provide an avenue to challenge the introduction of such evidence, and it will typically fall on the criminal defense attorney to introduce flaws in the technique in an effort to get the evidence disqualified from introduction at trial.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you, or a loved one, have been arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, and the possibility exists that forensic evidence may be used against you, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. The attorneys at our office have years of experience in criminal law, and we will do our best to ensure that the any faulty bit of evidence is properly excluded from the prosecution’s case, giving you, or your loved one, the best possible chance at defending the charges asserted against you. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.