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North Carolina forensic criminal lab passes audit review

Criminal procedure laws impose strict requirements on the collection and transport of forensic evidence, and for good reason. Even evidence like DNA can be tainted or contaminated if mishandled, either at the scene of an alleged crime or in the lab. Chain of custody rules and other safety precautions hopefully preserve such evidence. Otherwise, potential misidentifications or erroneous results could happen.

Fortunately, the risk of wrongful convictions might be low in North Carolina, based on a recent commendation achieved by the State Bureau of Investigation. According to an audit by a third party organization, the state lab scored the highest level of marks.

The results are in stark contrast to conditions just two years ago. In 2010, an investigative media series explored the possibly unscientific or unethical handling of evidence by state officials, possibly for the purpose of manipulating trial outcomes. The series also questioned whether possibly exculpatory evidence was being withheld, possibly depriving criminal defendants of exoneration or more favorable trial odds.

The media exposure prompted the state attorney general at the time to overhaul the crime lab’s procedures. A state sponsored audit confirmed that officials might have omitted test results from court proceedings.

This forensic lab accreditation means that criminal defendants may receive procedural justice at trial. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney knows that trial outcomes are dependent on many factors, perhaps the most unpredictable of which is jury deliberation. An attorney may also have plea bargaining strategies that can result in a lesser charge or sentence.

Source:, “NC crime lab wins international seal of approval,” Joseph Neff, June 14, 2013