Custody of Evidence in the Form of Illicit Drugs by Prosecutors Durring Trial
20 years ago, it was not uncommon to see prosecuting attorneys in possession of illicit materials that served as evidence intended to be used at trial.
I distinctly remember a somewhat lax overseeing of evidence in the form of controlled substances which was depended upon by both myself and fellow prosecutors to prove drug cases in the 1990s.
William and his law partners all worked as prosecuting attorneys together almost 20 years ago. While one of his partners focused on prosecuting sex crimes and the other DUI, Attorney Moore prosecuted primarily drug related offenses. Both he and another assistant state attorney used to comment on how it seemed uncomfortable to be given custody of a Ziploc evidence bag full of cocaine and walk it to and from court for trial.
Moore admits that standard procedure was to have a Broward County law enforcement officer present during the transport of controlled substances to and from the courtroom, there were several occasions where a deputy simply interested both myself or my trial partner to carry evidence bags containing controlled substances to an evidence locker when trial proceedings ran late into the evening.
Keep in mind that this was almost 20 years ago claims Moore. I seem to remember that we were treated somewhat like fellow police officers back then. Neither myself or any of my former colleagues recall even a hint of any mishandling of controlled substances but all agree that it seemed weird at the time as we were all just over 20 years old.
I am sure that much has changed in the way of procedure for handling drug evidence by Broward County prosecuting attorneys.
Two decades ago my law partner’s and I have memories of the rare occasions where a Prosecutors who were in the middle of trial had sealed evidence bags full of either drugs or contraband on their dark brown laminated government desk.
I can only imagine how lax supervision must have been at the Broward County crime lab in those days claims Moore, a former Broward County Prosecutor.
During all my years serving as a prosecuting criminal attorney for the county of Broward, neither I nor my criminal law partners recall even a hint of an allegation that a prosecutor mishandled evidence.
Intended Purpose of Broward County Crime Lab
The Broward County crime lab exists to secure substances, preserving a chain of custody in anticipation of using those substances as evidence in prosecuting individuals for violating criminal drug laws and or possessing controlled substances considered dangerous. More importantly, the crime lab is used for both the testing and weighing of substances intended to be used against an accused person.
According to Broward County drug possession lawyer William Moore, our Florida criminal statutes outline the level, degree and severity of offenses involving controlled substances, contraband or even items such as firearms alleged to have been used in the commission of a crime or possessed by a convicted felon.
Both the nature and wait of a substance becomes very important in both the prosecution and defense of drug crimes in Broward County according to attorney William Moore. The difference in terms of exposure for an accused can be staggering. Similarly, in cases involving firearms, operability is something that must be proven by the state attorney.
The Broward County Prosecutor’s Burden of Proof
The Broward State Atttorney charged with prosecuting either a drug or firearms case must be able to prove that a substance was in fact cocaine where a defendant is charged with possessing cocaine. This requires opinion testimony which can only be provided by an expert witness who tested the substance. Likewise, in order to succeed on certain firearm cases, the prosecuting attorney must be able to prove that the firearm was operational.
All of this testing is conducted by experts working for the state right there in the Broward County Crime Lab. it’s one of the few things that can be considered convenient for an attorney prosecuting cases for the government.
Currently, the Broward County crime lab employs 37 analysts, clerical staff and evidence intake clerks who oversee the handling, storage and testing of evidence where required. A $5 million budget is allotted to the lab. A portion of these funds are provided by the Florida Department of law enforcement and the national institutes of justice according to attorney Moore.