During a recent inspection, the Nassau County, New York, police crime lab was found to have a whopping 15 issues of noncompliance with accepted standards of crime lab procedures. The issues were enough of a concern for the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) — the crime lab’s accrediting agency — to place the crime lab on probation for one year.
The lab now has 30 days to submit a plan for ensuring compliance with ASCLD/LAB regulations. If the errors are not corrected in a timely manner, the lab’s accreditation could be suspended or revoked.
The Nassau County crime lab is responsible for analyzing and storing evidence for criminal cases. Violations found in the inspection included:
- Using an uncalibrated instrument for measuring blood-alcohol content (BAC). The investigation found that the machine was last calibrated in 2007.
- Not properly securing evidence. The lab was found to have left the latent print lab, file storage area and evidence rooms open and unsecured at various times, including when no lab workers were present.
- Not properly marking evidence or containers to ensure chain of custody and prevent cross-contamination
Of the approximately 400 accredited laboratories in the United States, the Nassau County lab is the only one currently on probation. According to Ralph Keaton, executive director of the ASCLD/LAB, indicated that typically only two to three labs are placed on probation a year. This is the second time in four years that the Nassau County crime lab has been placed on probation, however.
Since the work of the crime lab is fundamental to both the prosecution and defense of criminal cases, a former president of the Nassau Criminal Courts Bar Association fears that the state “very well may see former convictions called into question, and pending cases scrutinized further.”
While the true impact of the actions (or lack thereof) of the crime lab on former and pending cases is yet to be seen, if you have questions or concerns about how the Nassau County crime lab’s probation status may affect your case, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.