There exist numerous classifications of narcotic drugs in criminal law. Despite the ability of narcotics to relieve pain by depressing the central nervous system, all narcotics do not affect the body the same way. There are some narcotics that are accepted for medicinal use, while others are described as illegal drugs and substances. For example, “The U.S Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) divides narcotics into scheduled classifications (one through five) based on the potential for abuse and medical use” (Ray & Dhawan, 2010).
Under the US Controlled Substance Act 1990, narcotic drugs are classified in four Schedules.
The required forensic evidence needed to obtain a conviction in a drug case
There are provisions designed for the required forensic evidence needed to obtain a conviction in a drug case. The defense use forensic evidence to prove what actually happened in a particular case. According to Strom, Hickman, Smiley, Ropero-Miller, & Stout, (2010), forensic evidence provides information that is not subjected to the motivation of live witnesses and biasness. Basically, the required forensic evidence needed to obtain a conviction in a drugs case is a lab test to the suspected substance to confirm that it is actually a controlled substance. This involves conducting lab tests on urine, hair, and blood to confirm use of controlled substance.
Blood tests administered to individual suspected of drinking and driving may serve as a forensic evidence to obtain a conviction in a drug case. Blood tests provide reliable results because they can reveal a large number of chemicals and substances in the body. Chemicals and substances found near the scene of a crime also provide forensic toxicologists with clues on what drugs they should look for in the victim’s body. Other body fluids including urine, vitreous humor, and saliva may also provide forensic evidence needed to obtain a conviction in a court case.
Other physical evidence such as hair samples provide toxicologists provide with evidence regarding consumption of certain substances. Hair samples provide reliable results after long duration. When tested, hair provides information such as how long and how often the person has been using the substance. In addition, stomach contents of deceased person may be examined for chemicals and substances.
Explain the necessity of: analysis of drugs in a criminal case, the chain of custody, and the preservation of evidence
Seizing and testing drug substance is very crucial in a criminal case because laws vary depending on the type of substances, and sentences vary depending on size and type of drug in possession. A slight difference in weight in some illegal substances might not influence the level of crime charged, but this could make a big difference in other type of substances.
Preserving the chain of custody in a drug case requires the apprehending officer to inventory what has been seized, including photographs where possible. The officer should also mark the drugs with the person who possessed them with location and date. The inventory should be signed by a third party preferably a supervisor. Only authorized persons are able to handle the drugs and they should sign the chain of custody sheet. The prosecutor must be able to prove that the evidence has not been tampered with, changed, lost, or mismarked. It must also prove that the drugs were found at the alleged scene of crime. The drug testing process must also be undertaken by reputable testing laboratories and results appropriate for use in drug case.
Drug tests used in criminal proceedings should be conducted by certified laboratory technician in a certified laboratory. In cases where correct procedures are not followed in conducting drug test, the defense is able to challenge the test and make the results null and void. In such case, the defense has the right to investigate those involved in the chain of evidence to confirm validity of the results and make sure that there were no mistakes or tampering in the handling of evidence. In addition, laboratory certifications and procedures can be cross-examined and even challenged by the prosecution.
Ray, R., & Dhawan, A. (2010). DRUG SCHEDULING—SCIENCE AND CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE. Addiction, 105(7), 1151-1153. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.02916.x
Strom, K. J., Hickman, M. J., Smiley Mcdonald, H. M., Ropero-Miller, J. D., & Stout, P. M. (2010). Crime Laboratory Personnel as Criminal Justice Decision Makers: A Study of Controlled Substance Case Processing in Ten Jurisdictions. Forensic Science Policy & Management, 2(2), 57-69. doi:10.1080/19409044.2011.573837