In general, when it comes to drug crimes police will seize what they believe to be illicit drugs. These drugs are usually tested to ensure they are what police believed them to be. However, many people in Virginia facing drug charges may find that there is a lengthy wait time for these items to be tested.
The number of drug cases that go before the Virginia Department of Forensic Science is increasing, becoming more complex and must adhere to safety regulations. This means that the department is experiencing a backlog in processing these cases that is only growing larger.
In 2015, police submitted over 27,550 drug cases to the Virginia Forensic Science Board. In 2017 that number grew to over 33,500 cases. Moreover, from 2015 to 2017 the backlog of cases went from nearly 4,000 to over 10,620. By June 30 of last year, on average it took 131 days to process a case. And, as of the end of July 2018, on average it took 136 days to process a case.
Evidence, such as drugs, must stay in the chain of custody from the time it is collected to the time it is presented at trial. As the evidence moves from collection to testing and to other places, it must be documented and properly cared for. This shows that the evidence is what it purports to be and has not been tampered with in any way. Evidence that gets lost in the chain of custody may be deemed inadmissible. For example, if evidence such as drugs that are being tested in a lab are mislabeled, this could break the chain of custody. The longer evidence sits waiting to be tested or is moved between testing facilities, the more opportunities there are for the chain of custody to be broken.
Evidence presented in a criminal trial can make or break the outcome of the case. Therefore, a criminal defense strategy will look for ways to discredit evidence proffered by the prosecution. In drug cases, if it cannot be proven that the items seized were actually illicit substances, this could be key to having the charges against the accused dropped.