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What is a chain of custody?

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2022 | Drug Crimes

A chain of custody is the term used to describe how the police handle any evidence they collect.

If accused of a crime, investigating the chain of custody of any evidence the prosecution hopes to present against you will be crucial. If your defense attorneys spots any broken links, they may be able to persuade the court to declare the evidence inadmissible and weaken the case against you.

The police and prosecution must keep accurate records

Imagine the police arrest you and take a bag of white powder from your vehicle glove box. You tell them it is talc to stop your feet sweating at the gym, but they insist it is cocaine.

Months later, the prosecution turns up in court with a similar-looking bag of white powder. How can a judge be sure it is the bag the police confiscated from you? They cannot unless the police present a detailed and unbroken chain of custody record.

A chain of custody record must detail who accessed the evidence and when. It also needs to track storage details as improper storage could allow someone access without the knowledge of others. For instance, someone could add a strand of your hair to a piece of clothing collected from a crime scene or swap out the talc for cocaine.

It’s not just intentional tampering that is the problem

Think about how much evidence police forces collect.  There is ample evidence for mixing items up with each other if the police and forensic labs do not follow proper procedures.

Prosecutors want to prosecute you. They may overlook questions about the validity of evidence.  That is why you need to hire an experienced California criminal defense attorney to investigate every movement of the evidence and expose any breaks in the chain of custody.