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Understanding the most common crime lab issues

By Dhar Law, LLP
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been under increased scrutiny in recent years due to a string of flawed testimonies and evidentiary submissions. According to The Atlantic, the forensic techniques used have been subjective and resulted in a staggering number of wrongful convictions. One can only imagine that if the FBI is guilty of such misdeeds, local crime labs may be subject to suspicion, too. There are four common issues that can occur in crime labs and compromise the reliability of their evidence.

Submission of subjective evidence

This article notes that submission of subjective evidence has been a contributing factor in a number of false convictions. Indeed, some crime labs have presented items such as bite marks and hair as objective evidence, when in fact, they are still subject to interpretation. This pattern-based form of evidence can be manipulated easily and as such should not be treated as an objective finding.

Human error and sloppy work

Perhaps the most disheartening of all issues in crime labs is the prevalence of sloppy work and errors that compromise the objectivity of the lab’s findings and often put defendants at risk. Many studies have revealed that lab associates may be susceptible to making mistakes and submitting incorrect results for a variety of reasons. No matter what the cause is, however, the result is an innocent person’s life on the line.

Deliberate misrepresentation and bias

Even worse than sloppy lab work is the possibility of deliberately sabotaged results. Lab workers may have access to information about a case they are testing for, and in such situations, prejudice may motivate them to report false results. Racism, sexism and other pernicious issues in the criminal justice system are likely to contribute to this. In such cases, the defendant may have little recourse in proving the compromise of the lab work.

Financial compensation for convictions

Another of the recently revealed motivations for incorrect results is the financial incentive many labs enjoy for results that garner a conviction. In other words, labs can receive bonuses if they report results that are submitted as evidence against a defendant. This reward quite obviously compromises objectivity, and the accused are left vulnerable to the consequences of corruption.

There are many factors that influence the results submitted by a lab, but it is clear that they are not always reliable. If you are facing charges and concerned about protecting your rights, hiring an attorney can help you navigate these and other issues you may encounter.


Have you or a family member been charged or arrested? It’s important not to make mistakes early on in your case. Download our PDF on the top 3 things to do to help your defense or if you have been arrested by the State Police or FBI or you are the subject of an FBI Arrest Warrant.

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Heading up the firm, Vikas Dhar is widely recognized as a leader in the New England legal community. An accomplished business litigator and a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney, he has also been honored as a New England Super Lawyer/Rising Star in the area of White-Collar Criminal Defense for each of the past six years by Boston Magazine.

I have the power and the skill to be able to save people from themselves. I can be your guide during the darkness. I can hold your hand and navigate you out of the darkness into the light.

— Vikas Dhar
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