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Error Occurs in Collection of Evidence


Often, questions arise in the court system that involve how to handle mistakes that happen in the justice system. Among these mistakes can be the mishandling of evidence. A New York Criminal Lawyer said that while losing evidence can be a devastating blow to a prosecution’s case, it is even more so when it in involves a sexual abuse crime. The physical evidence that is collected in a rape kit cannot be replaced if the kit is lost or mishandled. Unfortunately, it happens more often than the departments involved would like to admit. Large city departments have the biggest problem with ensuring that the chain of custody is kept pure.

In one case, that occurred on October 18, 1991, involved a rape. The victim was forced into the apartment and bedroom of an acquaintance where he pulled a gun on her. He forced her to have sexual intercourse with him. She reported the rape to the police in Queens County. The police officers transported her to Queens Hospital Center where she was examined by a doctor and a rape kit was completed. The offender was arrested on November 5, 1991 when he reported to his parole officer.

On January 2, 1992, the defense lawyer made an omnibus motion requesting the information that was recovered from the examination of the rape kit. He was advised that the rape kit evidence would be provided as soon as it was examined. On April 16, 1992,the defense team again requested an opportunity to examine the rape kit and the resulting laboratory analysis. Again, the police evidence unit stated that the results should come in shortly. The results were never given to the defense. After several failed attempts to obtain a copy of the analysis of the evidence, the police evidence unit finally admitted that the rape kit had been misplaced. They stated that after researching the whereabouts of the rape kit, it was discovered that the kit had never been submitted to the police department crime lab for analysis.

The process for handling a rape kit was examined. It was discovered that the rape kit evidence is collected by a sexual assault nurse examiner at the hospital. The hospital then holds the rape kit to be collected by the police department evidence technician who transports it to the crime lab for evidence extraction. Upon examination of the process and procedures, it became clear that the hospital notified the evidence technician from the 112th precinct to collect the kit. The technician did not collect it. In February of 1992, the hospital held a management meeting. At that meeting, the hospital discovered that they were holding approximately ten rape kits that had not been collected for transport to the crime lab by the police technician. The rape kit involved in this case was one of those kits.

The hospital notified the police evidence technician and the supervisors for the evidence unit. The kits were collected and all of them except for the one that represented the victim in this case, were recovered. A Long Island Criminal Lawyer said the hospital had no record of this rape kit and the hospital was unable to locate any information regarding it. The court was called upon to determine if any disciplinary sanctions should be made against the prosecution in regards to this case for the improper handling of the rape kit in question.

The court determined that there was no need for sanctions since there was no way to assign responsibility for the mistake. Since, there did not seem to be any intent to purposely conceal the kit, the court must recognize that accidents happen. A Suffolk County Criminal Lawyer said there is still enough evidence to go to trial since the woman was acquainted with the suspect in this case. The court ruled that the case would go forward to trial and that no sanctions would be made against the prosecution team because of the loss of the rape kit.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its criminal Lawyers have convenient offices throughout New York State and the Metropolitan area. Their rape Attorneys can provide you with assistance that is needed to guide you through difficult situations.

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