As a criminal attorney, I am also in many ways a forensic evidence attorney. If your case involves DNA, fingerprints, electronic evidence, fiber evidence, toxicology, or others, you need a criminal attorney who understands forensics. In a sense, a “forensic evidence attorney” will not only be familiar with the different types of forensic evidence, but he/she will also know the procedural issues and applicable law – such as admissibility and whether certain evidence can be suppressed.
In some cases forensic evidence can make all the difference between winning and losing a case – for either side. This is true both for the prosecutor and for your criminal defense lawyer. If there is properly collected, stored, and tested forensic evidence that proves you are guilty, the prosecution will obviously have a stronger case. However, if forensic evidence is missing, is inconclusive, was mishandled, lost, or not even collected when it was available, then your criminal lawyer has an important issue to investigate. The following lists common questions a “forensic evidence attorney” should consider:
Was DNA evidence recovered?
- If so, how much time between the incident and the collection?
- Where was the DNA recovered? Clothing, a crime scene, from a person?
- What kind of body fluid was the DNA extracted from? Blood, saliva, semen?
- Was the sample properly collected? Was it properly stored?
- Has an untested portion of the sample been preserved?
- Was a presumptive test conducted? If so, what were the results?
- Was the sample sent to a laboratory for conclusive testing?
- Was the DNA sample of high enough quality to be tested reliably?
- If the sample was tested, what were the results?
Was electronic evidence recovered?
- This includes items such as recorded phone calls, surveillance video, emails, chat logs, text messages, or downloaded explicit imagery.
- If so, were the proper protocols for collecting, preserving, and storing electronic evidence followed?
- Can the evidence to be admitted in court be authenticated?
- If a recorded phone call was made, are the voices on the tape audible? Is the prosecution able to identify the voice on the recording as yours?
- How did law enforcement learn of the existence of the electronic evidence?
- Where was the electronic evidence collected and stored? Was it copied from an electronic device? If so, was the original electronic device also collected and stored?
- Is the electronic evidence relevant to the case? What does it prove, what does it disprove?
- Is there proof that you were the sender or receiver of the evidence?
- Is there proof that you knew or should have known of the existence of the evidence on your electronic device?
- Has your computer been droned by a hacker to store explicit imagery without your knowledge or permission?
Was any fiber evidence recovered?
- If so, what type of fiber is it? Synthetic? Natural?
- How many different fibers were collected?
- Where was the fiber found? On a person, an article of clothing, a car?
- Was it properly collected, transported, and stored?
- How was the fiber examined and tested?
- What does the fiber evidence prove or disprove?
- What control samples were used to compare the recovered evidence to?
- What physical characteristics did the fiber analysts use to positively identify the fiber? Thickness, shape, color, shimmer, clarity, etc?
Were fingerprints recovered?
- If so, where were they recovered from?
- If not, did the police dust the crime scene for fingerprints?
- How long after the alleged crime were the prints recovered?
- Are they partial prints? Were they smudged? What is the quality of the samples collected?
- Was the fingerprint analyst able to make a positive match to your prints?
- Do the fingerprints have any relevance to your case? What do they prove or disprove?
- Were another person’s prints recovered from the crime scene?
Was a weapon recovered?
- If so, what kind of weapon?
- Where was the weapon found?
- If the weapon is a firearm, is there evidence that it was fired?
- Were any discharged bullets or shell casings recovered?
- Has the firearm or the bullets been subjected to ballistic analysis?
- Does the weapon have any blood spatter, fingerprints, damage, or unusual markings that reveal anything about its owner or the incident?
- Is the defendant linked in any way to the weapon? Is another person or suspect linked to the weapon?
- What relevance does the weapon have to your case, if any? What does it prove or disprove?