Forensic evidence mishaps can lead to wrongful convictions

Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately for some, the mistakes of those who are gathering forensic evidence can lead to criminal charges against innocent people. This issue was recently spotlighted in a New York Times article following the story of Mr. Lukis Anderson.

Mr. Anderson's story reads like the plot of a suspense novel. The young man's DNA was found on the fingernails of a victim who died during the commission of a robbery. Since Mr. Anderson's DNA was found on the victim, the prosecution appeared to have a slam dunk case. There was only one problem: Mr. Anderson was receiving treatment at a local hospital for suffering from severe intoxication during the time the crime was committed. Luckily for Mr. Anderson, his evening's indiscretion that led to his hospitalization provided a rock solid alibi. Without this alibi to spearhead his criminal defense strategy, it may have been difficult to maintain his innocence.

Although Mr. Anderson had an alibi, the question of how his DNA was found on the victim remained. The likely answer, according to the prosecution, centered on the paramedics who treated Mr. Anderson; these very same medical professionals were called to the scene of the crime. As a result, the prosecution believes the paramedics transferred Anderson's DNA to the victim.

Impact on those charged with crimes in Colorado

Although this story may not be common, it serves to remind anyone charged of a crime to take the charges seriously. Even those who are innocent could face a difficult trial and, without a strong defense, could see the charges quickly become a conviction.

Convictions for even minor crimes in Colorado can be accompanied with harsh penalties. For example, a person charged with a first offense driving under the influence crime, or DUI, can face a variety of administrative and criminal penalties even if no one is injured. These penalties may include:

  • License suspension for nine months.
  • 12 point penalty from driver's license.
  • Imprisonment of five days to one year.
  • Monetary fine of $600 to $1000.
  • Required public service for 48 to 96 hours.

Installation of an ignition interlock device may also be required.

Take charges seriously, consult with an attorney

In addition to criminal and administrative penalties, those with a DUI conviction on record can face difficulties finding employment and housing. The presence of a DUI would need to be noted on any application that requires disclosure of a criminal record.

The severity of penalties associated with a criminal conviction combined with the risk of mistakes while gathering forensic evidence makes it more important than ever to take criminal charges seriously. If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Colorado criminal law attorney to better ensure your rights are protected.