Article by Daniel A. Levy, Esq.
Today, we learned of a shocking discovery regarding falsification of drug test results within the New Jersey State Police Laboratory.
As part of our Criminal Practice, we handle plenty of cases that involve drug crimes. In practically all drug cases, the State has the burden to prove that a substance that they recovered was in fact illicit drugs. And to do this, the police will typically send evidence to a laboratory to be evaluated and tested. The specimen would be put though a series of tests and a lab report would be generated with opinions from the technician about what, if any, drugs are present in the sample.
In a memo from the Public Defenders Office from February 29, 2016, we learned that there was apparently a meeting with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, criminal court judges, and private attorneys and during that meeting it was disclosed that a technician from the State Police Lab in Little Falls, New Jersey had been found to have “dry labbed” suspected drug specimens. Essentially, he was observed to have written test results for suspected drugs that were never actually tested. This calls into question thousands of test results that this technician produced during the course of his 10 year employment with the lab.
If cases are still open, the prosecutor’s office could re-test the specimens. However, there may be thousands of cases that are now closed where a conviction or plea was based on lab reports authored by this technician. In those cases, the specimens may have all been destroyed.
The situation is still developing and the prosecutor’s office is in the process of formulating a plan of action. More details should emerge during the next weeks or months. Needless to say, there may be a flood of motion to re-open cases where this technician was involved. It is also important for there to be a fair investigation into the question of how this was allowed to happen in the first place and whether there is a larger problem with compromised test results.