Besides listing all the activities and behavior considered illegal in the state, Florida law also contains several rules of procedure. These are a complex series of instructions designed to make sure the process is as efficient, fair, and within the law as possible.
The rules of criminal procedure can be very complex and arcane unless you practice criminal law. One such rule is called the chain of custody requirement. If you have been charged with drug trafficking or another drug-related crime, this rule could become very important to you.
The chain of custody rule
When the police seize a piece of property to use as evidence against you, you lose all control over those items. You have no way of knowing if by the time they appear in court, someone has tampered with them, or if they are even the same items that were seized when you were arrested. Thus, the law puts the burden on prosecutors to prove that a piece of evidence they want to introduce at trial was properly handled at all times.
For example, say the prosecutor wants to present drugs the police report were in your home when they came to arrest you. The prosecutor may have to call in witnesses from the police department to testify that the drugs were properly marked and stored, and explain everyone who came into contact with them. Meanwhile, your defense attorney can cross-examine the witnesses if there are signs of “breaks” in the chain of custody — doubts that the evidence is the same as was taken from the crime scene. Maybe the evidence was “missing” for several hours or days. If so, your lawyer could file a motion to dismiss the evidence based on problems with the chain of custody.
What a defense attorney who knows the rules can do
You may not know how shaky the prosecution’s case against you is until you speak to an attorney. Visit our drug crimes page to learn what our firm does on behalf of our clients.