Lessons From the Nassau County Crime Lab Shutdown
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Familiar With the Lab’s Failures
The Nassau County Crime Lab was permanently shut down last year after numerous
violations involving inaccurate testing for blood alcohol concentration
and other drugs. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice ordered
the shutdown after six of nine samples retested from previous drug cases
proved inaccurate. The lab was put on probation in 2006, but District
Attorney Rice said she was unaware of any problems until 2010.
In 2010 the lab was again put on probation when it failed on over 20 critical
items in a review conducted by the American Society of Crime Laboratory
Directors. Inspector General Ellen Biben wrote in a report issued nine
months after the shutdown that the lab had “profound failures.”
The report condemned the lab has having weak leadership and inconsistent training.
The report suggested the county medical examiner’s office take over
leadership of the drug crime lab and institute better training and higher
standards for drug testing. Currently, however, the lab remains closed.
The shutdown – and the mistakes that precipitated the shutdown –
are still having a profound effect on previous convictions.
The drug crime lab’s equipment for measuring blood alcohol concentration
had not been calibrated for years at the time of the shutdown, meaning
convictions for DWI based on evidence obtained from that equipment may
be unreliable. DWI convictions from as early as 2006 are being investigated
for inaccuracies and many of them could potentially be overturned.
In addition, drug crimes rely heavily on lab results, and a few grams of
heroin or cocaine can be the difference between a misdemeanor and felony
charge. It is also unclear if the equipment used to test drugs was properly
calibrated. In addition, the scales may not have been cleared after each
test, meaning that residue from previous tests may have remained for each
new test, leading to inaccurate results. Again, drug crime convictions
from as far back as 2007 are also being reviewed – which number
in the thousands.
Even if your case was not determined on evidence obtained by the Nassau
County Crime Lab, the shutdown evidences how law enforcement must use
accurate and constitutional methods to obtain evidence for drug crimes
and DWIs. If you were convicted of a crime based on evidence from the
Nassau County Crime Lab, contact a criminal defense attorney familiar
with the lab’s failures. Anyone charged with a drug crime or DWI
should also contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure
that all evidence is accurate and obtained lawfully.