Houman Fakhimi

Orange County Crime Labs Gain Recognition, but Aren't Infallible

The Press-Enterprise recently wrote an article praising the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's crime lab, but what the article doesn't address is how crime labs aren't 100 percent accurate.

Orange County Criminal Defense lawyers have seen many cases where crime labs produce faulty test results and they are challenged in court. While a lot of the work done by crime scene investigators is accurate, it's not fail-proof. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to challenge the lab results and suppress evidence before trial.

According to the news article, the crime lab was used to search for evidence in the 2010 case of a man accused of shooting a Riverside police officer. When investigators searched a semi-truck cab and found a fingerprint, they identified a suspect, which led to an arrest. In 2010, the lab analyzed nearly 25,000 drug, breath, blood, DNA, ammunition, firearm and trace-evidence samples, as well as tire tracks and shoe prints.

As television has noted, crime scene investigation, commonly called CSI, has become an increasingly popular tool for law enforcement. The advent of DNA evidence and analysis has given law enforcement officers another way to produce facts against a suspect.

DNA evidence is crucial in many types of cases, but perhaps none more than murder and sex crimes. Murder in California, California Penal Code Section 187, is the most severe charge the state can levy against a person. Therefore, it requires a significant amount of evidence. Police will often search for fingerprints on a weapon or inside a vehicle or house to prove a person committed the crime. They will sometimes send items to a lab for analysis.

Without getting into the complexities of DNA evidence, analysts don't typically match a sample with a sample taken from a suspect with 100 percent certainty. Analysts usually will testify the sample is consistent with the suspect compared to a certain number of Caucasians, for example. For instance, the report may say the probability of someone other than the suspect matching the tested sample is about 1 in 10,000 Caucasians. What that means is that there are many other people whose DNA could potentially match the tested sample.

Additionally, there have been many cases in which a lab's tests have been challenged on any number of grounds. In each case, evidence is suspect and should be vigorously challenged in court and even before trial. In Orange County sex crimes, too, DNA may be the only evidence separating a suspect from a conviction and freedom.

And while this particular crime lab is funded by the county, there are many crime labs that are private and used by law enforcement.

If you're facing a charge involving DNA in the Orange County area, you should contact a lawyer to help you fight for your rights. Contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney at (714) 705-6701.