Former state chemist arrested on drug charges

A former Florida Department of Law Enforcement chemist who supervised a crime lab was arrested this week after agents connected him with drugs that were missing from the evidence room. The man who was arrested was suspected of stealing prescription pain medications that had been seized by police as evidence and replacing them with over-the-counter pills. The full extent of how much evidence was tampered with is not yet know, but authorities say it could impact as many as 2,600 cases dating back to 2006. Those cases are all being reviewed in light of this revelation.

This is not the first time that a crime lab employee has been discovered mishandling evidence in some way. In other cases in various states around the country cases have been retried because of mishandled blood samples, for example. When employees of the state or country engage in this type of misconduct it has serious implications for the defendants whose cases were compromised.

In this case the man who was suspected of misconduct was suspended without pay when the allegations surfaced and he eventually resigned. Charges like this, even if they prove to be unsubstantiated, could have a big negative impact on the man’s future job opportunities. In these types of cases defendants need to assert their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The press can often be quick to assume guilt once the police make an arrest but in many cases there is more to the story.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “FDLE chemist arrested in statewide drug-tampering case,” Susan Jacobson, Feb. 4, 2014.