Why the Chain of Custody Matters for Your Criminal Case
When you are arrested for possessing an illegal substance, such as drugs, police seize the drugs or illegal contraband as evidence of the crime. In order for this evidence to be used against you, the police must be able to present the seized evidence in court and establish that it is both the drug alleged and that it is the same substance that was seized from you upon your arrest. In order for them to prove this, there must be a clear and well documented chain of custody, essentially tracking what has been done with the evidence and who has control of it at all times since it was seized. If the state can establish a strong chain of custody, then it weighs in favor of the evidence being reliable. However, if your defense team can highlight gaps and inconsistencies in the chain of custody, it may mean the evidence is unreliable, and can even be grounds for dismissing the charges against you.
Understanding the Burden of Proof
When you walk into a courtroom, you are innocent. It is the burden of the state (prosecution) to prove to a high standard that you committed the crime you are accused of. In fact, they must prove that you committed the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That means if anyone on the jury has significant doubts at the end of the trial, you should not be convicted. The role of the prosecution becomes to present a compelling narrative that removes all doubts. This narrative will include a motive. The role of your defense becomes to create as much doubt about the prosecution’s narrative as possible to keep them from reaching this threshold.