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Evidence tampering delays numerous cases, investigation launched

Imagine that you are accused of a drug crime, and the police find evidence in your car or on your person to establish the case. You contact your lawyer and prepare to deal with a tough case. Drug crimes are vigorously prosecuted, after all, and it can often lead to a disproportionate sentence being handed down in comparison with the crime.

Your case goes to trial and on the first day in court, the judge opens up a sealed envelope from a drug lab that supposedly contains the drugs that you had. However, what falls out of the envelope are not drugs -- at least not the ones you would expect. Instead, a few heart medication pills fall on the judge's bench. Everyone quickly realizes that someone at the drug lab has taken the drugs you allegedly had and replaced them with these prescription drugs.

Why would someone do that? For what nefarious purpose could a drug lab employee have stolen the drugs? It's largely irrelevant because your case has been affected by evidence tampering, and your right to due process has been infringed upon.

This is essentially what happened in the state of Delaware last month when an investigation was launched into the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner with evidence substituted or outright disappearing, according to a tampering probe into the lab. A judge opened a sealed envelope to find blood pressure medication instead of oxycontin pills that were part of a drug case.

It is not known how many cases will be affected by the tampering, nor is the scope of the tampering known. Cases linked to the drug lab are being delayed for 60 days while the investigation plays out.

Source: CNN, "Drug tampering inquiry could mean justice delayed in Delaware," Mary Kay Mallonee, Feb. 24, 2014

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