Police send evidence to crime labs for testing and analysis. This evidence is then used to build a case or gain a conviction against a defendant. The integrity of these labs is crucial in that the evidence that travels through them must be handled with respect to constitutional protections, due process, and scientific standards or risk jeopardizing the entire case. So, when one lab chemist is accused of putting her hands in the cookie jar, so to speak, numerous cases can be affected.
According to MassLive.com, a former chemist in the state crime lab in Amherst pleaded innocent to charges that she mishandled evidence and even stole cocaine from that lab. In total, Sonja Farak faces four charges of larceny of drugs, four charges of evidence tampering, and two charges of possession of cocaine.
Farak’s alleged crimes were discovered when fellow employees contacted State Police when they realized the lab’s inventory was off. She was arrested on January 19.
The consequences of Farak’s alleged actions are far-reaching. In March, eight men had their sentences suspended on the possibility that the drug evidence in their case had been compromised by Farak’s actions.
Although Farak’s actions could have a significant impact on these and potentially other cases, her legal troubles are quite minimal when compared with those of chemist Annie Dookhan from the Hinton State Laboratory Institute. Dookhan is accused of faking drug tests and tampering with evidence and faces 17 counts of obstruction along with eight counts of evidence tampering. Her alleged actions could put thousands of cases at risk.
Farak is out on bail but must submit to random drug tests and a curfew until her court date.
Crime labs like those where Farak and Dookhan worked are the clearinghouses of thousands of pieces of evidence every single month. The cases tied to this evidence depend on the integrity of the lab chemists as much as they do the police who collected them. When a chemist (or a cop) is accused of wrongdoing in relation to criminal evidence, it not only stands to cost them their career but can throw numerous cases into question.
If you are accused of a drug offense, you need to know that the evidence used against you is legitimate. An illegal search or improper handling of the evidence could result in your case being dismissed. Contact our offices today to discuss how we might be able to help.