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Testing the Test: When Drug Lab Results Are Not Accurate

Science continues to change this country at an exponential rate. Just a glance at this past holiday season’s hottest items puts drones and hoverboards at the top of the list. Gadgets are not the only significant advances in science. In the past decades, DNA tests and drug tests developed significantly. Many of those tests are performed by highly trained lab technicians. However, although the science is sound, actions or mistakes on the part of the human technicians could call the results into question. This is exactly what happened with a Passaic County lab technician.

Fabricated Lab Technician Results

According to NJ.com a lab technician for the State Police was allegedly fabricating the results of drug tests, some of which were from Bergen County.  Kamalkant Shah, the technician, is accused of what is called “dry labbing.”  Forensic Magazine says this process is simply fabricating results for a sample without actually testing them.  The NJ.com article states Shah is not currently charged with a crime yet for his alleged “dry labbing.”  This does not mean Shah will not eventually face criminal prosecution.  Most of the information on Shah comes from a Memorandum released by the Office of the Public Defender.

The memorandum stated Shah worked with the lab for ten years from 2005-2015.  The discovery of his “dry labbing” calls the results of almost 2,100 tests into question.  The prosecutor’s office plans to send specimens in open cases back to the lab for retesting. However, there is not yet any plan for those results used in closed cases and in cases which no longer have any samples left to be tested.  For the individuals affected by the faked results, it is easy to look at other instances which had the same conduct.

Other Instances of Fabricated Drug Results

In Massachusetts, a state lab drug analyst was put in prison for doing essentially the same thing as Shah.  According to The New York Times,  Annie Dookhan was sentenced to three years in prison for falsifying thousands of drug test results.  Although she was only a drug analyst for nine years, Dookhan handled about 40,000 samples.  At the end of 2014 nearly 1,200 defendants had filed for post conviction relief.   Although some of the defendants were concerned they would face a stricter punishment after a reexamination of their cases, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled defendants whose guilty pleas were based on test results provided by Dookhan could seek a new trial without added charges or stiffer sentences.  There is no indication on whether or not New Jersey courts will take the same steps.

A similar situation occurred in Texas in 2013. According to the Texas Observer, Jonathan Salvador faked lab test results for what could be six years.  Salvador was employed as a lab technician for the Department of Public Safety. As a result Salvador had access to almost 5,000 cases worth of evidence, emanating from 36 Texas counties.  Now that the results were called into question, almost all of the defendants may challenge their initial convictions.

Seeking Relief From These Tests

If your case included drug test results from New Jersey you too may be affected.  You need the help of an experienced criminal law attorney.  Phillip J. Murphy is licensed to practice New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and has been defending the rights of his clients since 1989. Call today for a consultation.

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