Almost 1,200 drug cases have been identified by prosecutors as impacted by a state police lab scandal and will likely be dismissed as a result. It is standard practice to hold onto evidence, or drug test samples, when they are positive, so they can be retested to confirm the positive results. However, it appears that one employee at the lab may have destroyed evidence before it could be retested.
It began when one technician employed at the state Office of Forensic Sciences laboratory in Little Falls was allegedly caught “dry-labbing” a sample submitted as evidence in a case. Essentially, he allegedly recorded the sample as positive without analyzing the sample according to procedure. The technician was investigated but not criminally charged; however, every sample he ever handled is now up for debate.
The number of samples that have and will need to be retested as a result of the outcome of the investigation will total between 7,800 and 14,800. So far, there have been 485 motions to dismiss drug charges that resulted in convictions as a result of handling by this tech. Of this number, more than 400 were resolved and only four were dropped as a result of the filing.
However, in the process of going through all the tests handled by the tech in question, it was found that 1,169 cases will be dismissed because the samples are not available to be retested – so far. Rather than being saved as required, the evidence was destroyed, leaving prosecutors with no ability to confirm whether or not the sample was actually positive.
Testing and Retesting
Though the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has already retested more than 1,300 tests handled by the tech and found them all to be positive as originally assessed, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement: “We remain committed to ensuring that no conviction is upheld unless we are satisfied that any drug testing conducted was in fact reliable.”
The silver lining is that changes to testing protocol have been made due to the problems that were revealed through this investigation. A much more intensive drug testing process has been implemented, and it includes retesting of past samples as part of the investigation and with all future testing as well.
First Assistant Public Defender Kevin Walker said in a statement: “One of the principal benefits of this litigation has been the state’s adoption of a new protocol for the testing of suspected marijuana. Hopefully with its adoption, we will avoid future allegations of laboratory fraud. We commend the Office of Attorney General for heeding the calls for reform, in the face of these allegations, and for so readily changing the testing protocol to comport with best practices.”
Drug Charges and Substance Use Disorders
Many people in recovery cite the time they were arrested on a drug-related charge as the moment when they realized that their use of substances had hit a breaking point. Too often, people who are in the thick of an addiction do not realize the progressive changes that have led them there. Arrest and finding themselves in a court of law can help them to see a different perspective of their behavior and make it very clear that if drug use does not stop then legal problems – as well as a host of other problems – will continue.
If your loved one is struggling with substance use and abuse, you can help them to recognize the severity of the issue and facilitate their connection with a treatment program that has the resources to help them begin their personal journey to health and wellness. Depending on their drug of choice, how long they have been in active addiction, and their average dosage, the specifics of the treatment may be different. Additionally, their personal history of mental health, physical health, and attempts at treatment will inform the creation of a treatment plan that will work best for your love one’s personal needs.
Are you ready to help your family member take the first step toward treatment that can change their life?