What is the Chain of Custody?

In a Las Vegas criminal case, you may hear the phrase “chain of custody” used to describe evidence. The Las Vegas chain of custody refers to the foundation that the prosecution needs in order to establish that certain types of evidence can be admitted at trial.

These key pieces of evidence are relevant to the facts of the case and can determine whether a defendant is found guilty or not. For example, drugs collected in an illegal possession case are considered evidence, as is a stolen computer in a shoplifting case.

The prosecution must prove that the evidence being offered to the court is what it claims to be, and they also must prove that they had possession of that evidence between the time it was seized and the time it was presented to the court. If they cannot prove that the chain of custody exists, the courts may exclude these key pieces of evidence.

Understanding the Links Within the Chain

During a criminal case, the prosecution will depend on the evidence gathered by law enforcement. During the trial, the prosecution must prove that there was a chain of custody and that it was maintained. Defense attorneys can easily attack the chain of custody – and it is often one of the best defense strategies for having evidence excluded, or an entire case dismissed. If the chain of custody is insufficient or lacks protocol, the judge can exclude the evidence, and the defense will be successful in their strategy.

For example, say a defendant is on trial for drug possession. In order to prove that they are guilty, the prosecution must establish that the defendant was the one in possession of that illegal substance. Then, the prosecution must offer into evidence the drug that was seized from the defendant. They must also show scientific evidence that proves the drug in question is in fact an illegal substance.

Next, the prosecution must establish the Las Vegas chain of custody for the court, which includes:

  1. Showing that law enforcement seized the material, and that it can easily be distinguished from other items seized during the arrest or those taken from other suspects.
  2. Proving that the police then stored that evidence in a way that ensures it was not tampered with – such in a secure storage inside the police department.
  3. Calling an expert to testify that the substance is in fact an illegal substance and prove such with chemical testing results.
  4. Establishing that the drugs given to the expert were the same drugs that were seized from the defendant.
  5. Proving that the expert followed all required testing procedures before coming to their conclusion.
  6. Proving that the drugs tested by the expert were the same drugs now presented at the trial.

A good criminal defense attorney will challenge every step of this foundation, creating holes within the Las Vegas chain of custody. If the prosecution cannot prove to the judge that the foundation for their chain of custody is adequate, the defense will succeed in having that evidence excluded.

For Your Case, Contact a Nevada Criminal Defense Team

If you have been arrested for a crime, proving that the Las Vegas chain of custody has been broken is imperative. The criminal defense attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group will explore this method, as well as other methods of defense, to help prove your case. Call us today to schedule a consultation at 702-222-9999 or fill out an online contact form with your questions.