The problems experienced by the Nassau County crime lab have been well-publicized. Evidence tested by the lab has been found to be unreliable due to a lapse in protocol. Now, many cases are starting to go through the courts in an effort to determine if some individuals have been wrongly convicted.
Many of these cases concern drug crimes or DWI matters that went to trial. Technicians at the lab were found to have not followed basic crime lab procedures, meaning that either samples or equipment may have been contaminated in drug cases. For those who were convicted of driving while intoxicated, there may have been issues regarding the calibration of the lab's portable breath test. This could impact many of the DWI cases that have gone through the system, as well as those cases that are still pending.
In some of these cases, new trials have been granted because the testing completed by the lab was deemed unreliable. As the number of mistakes in cases increases, the courts will be under more pressure to award new trials to previously convicted defendants.
Nassau County may also have additional problems due to a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court stated that if evidence of a lab test is going to be used in court, it will be necessary to have the person who performed the actual test available to testify. Scientists who are familiar with the methods used, but not present when the tests were conducted may not testify as to the meaning of the results.
While the Nassau County lab is shut down, it has been using a lab in Pennsylvania to do its testing on new samples as well as the retesting of samples from prior cases to check for errors. The ruling will force the county to bring the scientists from the out-of-state lab to testify in any trials that may be necessary.
If you or a family member has been accused or convicted of a crime based on evidence associated with the lab, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area to understand how to best proceed. It is extremely important to protect your rights and preserve the options that are available to you.