Richmond Drug Arrest
Law enforcement has been heavily focused on making drug arrests throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky. A comment in a recent news report about a Richmond drug arrest caught my eye. As a Louisville criminal defense attorney, I spend a tremendous amount of time reviewing evidence. Part of the reason is to figure out what the prosecution thinks they know. Another part is to ensure there’s a proper chain of custody. If I can prove the evidence wasn’t properly preserved, possibly tampered with or even planted, I may have an opening to win my case.
What caught my eye is the way some people try to hide the evidence. Often, this proves less effective that originally hoped. During a Madison County Drug Task Force arrest at a local, Richmond hotel. The police entered the room they spotted a glass pipe. It’s the kind of pipe people often use to smoke meth. One of the defendants then threw it into the garbage can.
While I give the defendant some points for his quick thinking, I’m not sure I can give him additional points for thinking it through. The police were easily able to recover the pipe and log it into evidence resulting from the drug bust. The “but officer, it was in the trash can” isn’t necessarily an effective defense when it comes to drug paraphernalia.
The man and a woman were arrested for trafficking in a controlled substance for the heroin and first-degree trafficking for the meth. Additional charges are based on the buying/possessing drug paraphernalia recovered during the Richmond drug arrest.
What Is the Chain of Custody?
The prosecution has the burden of ensuring that evidence collected has been properly preserved, if it is to be admitted as part of the case against the defendant. There are multiple steps required to prove the purported evidence is the same evidence from the crime scene. Among the steps required are the following:
- Proper marking of the package/envelope used to contain the evidence at the crime scene. This includes marking it so that it can be distinguished from other evidence gathered.
- Proper storage to ensure the evidence isn’t tampered with while in the control of the law enforcement officers.
- Examination by a qualified expert to prove what the substance actually is (e.g. heroin).
- Proper documentation to prove the package given to the expert is the same package recovered from the scene of the crime.
- Proof that the proper tests, examination procedures or other inspections were completed.
- Proof that the tested evidence is what is being entered as proof in trial.
If the evidence cannot be proven to be the exact item and/or substance recovered from the scene of the crime, or if the evidence was potentially tampered with, it may not be admissible. If the prosecution can’t use the evidence, there’s a chance they won’t be able to prove their case. So, while hiding the meth pipe in the garbage can isn’t an effective defense in this Richmond drug arrest, trying to use a different pipe during the trial isn’t effective either. The rules of evidence exist for a reason.