2500 Rhode Island Ave, Suite B, Fort Pierce, FL 34947
Call Today: (772) 489-2200
2500 Rhode Island Ave, Suite B, Fort Pierce, FL 34947
Call Today: (772) 489-2200

2500 Rhode Island Avenue
Suite B
Fort Pierce, FL 34947

Call Now For A Personalized Case Evaluation

(772) 489-2200

Saint Lucie Scientific Evidence Lawyer

Experienced and Respected Criminal Defense

Scientific Evidence in Criminal Cases: Importance of Challenges

In criminal trials, forensic or scientific evidence is considered to be the gold standard for validity and reliability. However, some so-called scientific evidence might have little evidentiary value and be untrustworthy. For this reason, it’s important to work with a St. Lucie scientific evidence lawyer with a background in the sciences who understands both legal and scientific standards. Saint Lucie criminal lawyer Jeffrey H. Garland, Esq. has more than four decades of experience working as a criminal trial attorney and an undergraduate degree in chemistry, providing him with a unique insight into the rigors required for evidence to be admissible in court.

Criminal defense lawyers must be able to understand the specialized issues surrounding forensic evidence, which might include a broad variety of different types. People who are facing criminal charges should ensure they retain lawyers who have the experience, knowledge, and skills required to identify and handle issues associated with any forensic evidence the prosecutor might try to present.

Help from a Saint Lucie Scientific Evidence Lawyer

In addition to his scientific and legal background, Saint Lucie criminal lawyer Jeffrey H. Garland, Esq. is passionate about science and regularly sources help from experts in various disciplines to present the strongest possible defense cases for his clients. It’s important to challenge the state’s assumption that all forensic evidence is reliable and show that certain types of submitted evidence are unreliable under current scientific standards or that police officers have misapplied scientific principles. Scientific evidence might also be presented by a Saint Lucie scientific evidence lawyer to rebut the arguments made by the prosecution.

Common Types of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Cases

Criminal courts refer to scientific evidence as forensic evidence. This type of evidence is used by both criminal prosecutors and defense attorneys and might be an issue in many criminal cases, including murder, sexual assaults, DUIs, robberies, and others. However, forensic evidence is not always reliable, and unreliable evidence should not be admitted at trial.

The following types of forensic evidence are commonly used in criminal cases:

  • Fingerprint identification
  • Hair follicle evidence
  • Fiber evidence
  • DNA matching
  • Ballistic evidence
  • Gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) analysis
  • Breathalyzer tests
  • Computer forensic analysis

In some cases, the prosecution might try to introduce new forms of forensic evidence that has not been rigorously tested by the scientific community or recognized as reliable. Even some types of evidence that might be broadly accepted for its value, including fingerprints, can be challenged when they are analyzed incorrectly.

Fingerprint Matching Problems

Since each person’s fingerprints are unique, they have long been used to identify suspects in criminal cases. However, fingerprint identifications can be faulty, and errors can arise because of the following issues:

  • Human errors made with visual matching
  • Expert bias based on contextual information
  • AFIS matching errors – false positives and false negatives
  • Aged fingerprints
  • Lack of standards for the number of points and ridges
  • Lack of security for fingerprint evidence

There have been some infamous fingerprint identification mistakes in the past. For example, Brandon Mayfield was erroneously identified as the Madrid bomber based on an inaccurate fingerprint identification and wrongfully detained and subsequently released with an apology two weeks later. Mayfield was never in Spain and could not have committed the crime of which he was accused. His case demonstrates the importance of challenging fingerprint evidence even though it is widely accepted.

DNA Matching Problems

DNA analysis might include the analysis of biological evidence left behind at crime scenes. Like fingerprints, all people have unique DNA profiles other than identical twins. While DNA analysis can be highly accurate, problems can be introduced by lab analysts whose analyses are not conducted to scientific standards, raising the possibility of human error.

Hair and Fiber Evidence Issues

Analysis of hair left behind at the scene of a crime has been introduced in many criminal cases. Hair evidence is typically used to exclude people as suspects, but there are some cases in which hairs without follicles might be used to show similarities to a suspect’s hair. For example, Kirk Odom was convicted of rape in 1980 based on alleged similarities between his hair and some hair that was left behind at the crime scene. He was exonerated in 2012 when DNA testing showed that semen on a pillow excluded him as the perpetrator.

Fiber evidence might include fibers from curtains, clothing, fabric, upholstery, or carpet and might be manufactured, natural, or synthetic. Fiber evidence might be used to identify the source of the fiber. However, fabrics are typically mass-produced, bringing the value of fiber evidence into question.

Ballistic Evidence Problems

Trials for gun crimes often include testimony by ballistics experts about the type of weapon, the location of the shooter, the trajectory of the bullet, and the rifling or marks left behind on the bullet. While ballistics evidence might influence a jury, the field of ballistics is flawed and not backed by scientific principles.

Lab Errors

GC/MS in the lab is used to analyze chemicals in the blood to identify substances. However, lab analysts are not infallible. There have been multiple cases of faulty lab analysis leading to the dismissal of cases and withdrawal of convictions. For example, numerous DUI cases were dismissed in Colorado in 2012 because of errors made by lab analysts at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

Forensic Evidence in Criminal Trials

One reason it is important to challenge forensic evidence in criminal cases is that it tends to be accepted without question by juries. Defense lawyers should carefully examine any scientific evidence on which the prosecution intends to rely and work with experts to evaluate potential errors in how the evidence was collected or analyzed.

Defense attorneys can file motions to challenge the admissibility of forensic evidence. If evidence is found to be unreliable, the court should order it inadmissible. This would mean that the prosecutor could not present it at trial to prove the defendant’s guilt.

Florida courts follow what is known as the Daubert standard for evaluating scientific experts and evidence. This standard arose out of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and was established by the U.S. Supreme Court. While the Daubert standard is a federal standard, Florida has adopted it to use in state court cases.

According to the decision, judges must act as gatekeepers of scientific evidence to determine whether it has enough weight and merit to be presented to a jury. They must ensure that scientific evidence is both relevant and reliable and that it is grounded in the scientific method. A Daubert motion seeks to have unreliable evidence excluded at trial. The judge considers the following factors:

  • Whether the scientific evidence and expert’s theory have been objectively tested or could be tested under scientific principles,
  • Whether the theory or technique has been published in a peer-reviewed scientific publication
  • The theory or technique’s error rate
  • Whether standards and controls existed and were followed
  • Whether the theory or technique has general acceptance within the scientific community

Consult a Saint Lucie Scientific Evidence Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime and believe the prosecution and police will rely on forensic evidence, you should consult an experienced St. Lucie criminal lawyer at the law firm of Jeffrey H. Garland, P.A. Attorney Garland has decades of legal experience and a strong scientific background. Contact us today at (772) 489-2200 to request a consultation.

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  • Mr. Jeffery Garland has once again came through for me. With in a very short time, after hiring him, all my charges were dropped, one was a felony. Over the years Jeffery has handled a variety of cases for me and I have always had a positive out come. He works hard and knows the law. Jeffery is th best and his price is very reasonable. People I have recommended him to were very pleased with his work I highly recommend him.

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Jeffrey Garland, Esq. Awards & Ratings

Fort Pierce Criminal Lawyer
Saint Lucie County Criminal Lawyer
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