Criminal Law Update: Drug Analysis Must Be Supported By Live Testimony

This week, the United States Supreme Court ruled that criminal laboratory reports may not be used at trial unless the laboratory analyst actually responsible for preparing the report physically appears to give testimony in court and to be subjected to cross-examination.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment confrontation clause gives criminal defendants the right to challenge the validity of chemical analyses proffered by prosecutors by examining a live witness who would be compelled to appear at trial.

Prosecutors argue that the landmark decision adds a significant burden to the government’s ability to prosecute crimes in which lab reports are routinely submitted with little or no supporting testimony.

By contrast, the majority decision notes that convenience is not the measure of constitutionality, pointing out that “the confrontation clause may make the prosecution of criminals more burdensome, but that is equally true of the right to trial by jury and the privilege against self-incrimination.”

The full decision can be found at: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08pdf/07-591.pdf

If you have questions about drug analysis or a criminal matter, contact us at (203) 221-3100 or jmaya@mayalaw.com for a free consultation.