Chain of custody is a protocol that law enforcement officials follow in order to maintain the admissibility of evidence as exhibits in criminal cases. Failure to maintain the chain of custody can result in a piece of evidence being inadmissible at trial. Without this essential evidence, then the prosecutor may be unable to successfully prosecute a person for a criminal offense.
Evidence that prosecutors introduce at a criminal trial as exhibits can be anything from documents to illegal drugs to stolen goods. The chain of custody makes the evidence reliable, in that the evidence is what the prosecutor says it is. For instance, if a prosecutor wants to introduce a baggie full of cocaine at a trial on a criminal drug offense, he or she must provide a chain of custody in order to prove that the drugs are the same drugs that police officers took from the defendant at the time of arrest. A chain of custody essentially establishes which person or agency had possession of the drugs at all times since law enforcement since officers took possession of the drugs from the defendant.
To be more specific, a police officer first documents that he or she took the drugs from the defendant’s possession at the time of arrest. There must be evidence that the officer stored the drugs in a manner to ensure that no one tampered with the drugs while being stored, such as in a dedicated evidence room or locker. Next, the chain of custody will include documentation of the drugs being brought to an expert for testing to determine what the substance is, as well as transporting the drugs back to the law enforcement agency until trial. The prosecutor will have to prove that the drugs that the expert tested are the same drugs that the officer initially took from the defendant and that are being used as evidence at trial. This is just one example of how a prosecutor might establish a chain of custody for drugs that he or she wishes to use as an exhibit at trial. At Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center, we offer you client-focused representation and unrelenting protection of your rights throughout your criminal proceedings. When you need help that only an experienced criminal defense attorney can offer you, contact Benjamin Law Firm, LLC, at (816) 322-8008 or fill out the online information form located here.