Criminal Mischief

Crime Lab Scandal May Result in Thousands of Overturned Drug Convictions

Nearly 8,000 New Jersey criminal cases are being called into question after a state lab technician allegedly falsified lab results.

Kamalkant Shah, a state lab technician for New Jersey, has been accused of faking results in a marijuana case. According to Ellie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice, “Mr. Shah was observed in one case spending insufficient time analyzing a substance to determine if it was marijuana and recording an anticipated result without properly conducting the analysis.”

The crime lab scandal is now casting doubt on all the criminal cases Shah has worked on over the past decade. Over the ten years Shah worked as a lab technician at the crime lab in Little Falls, he has conducted test results on 7,827 cases.  According to authorities, all of his “results” will be called into question.

In Deputy Public Defender, Judy Fallon’s, memo to Public Defender, Joseph Krakora, Shah was essentially accused on making up data. Shah was found to have “dry labbed” suspected marijuana. “Basically, he was observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested,” according to the memo. Dry labbing refers to the practice of visually identifying samples, rather than chemically testing the samples, as required by law.

Shah was removed from the lab on December 10, 2015, as soon at the problem was discovered. Peter Aseltine, spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, noted that the state is reviewing all the cases Shah worked on since he began working in the North Regional Lab Drug Unit in 2005.

The scandal raises two important, and unanswered, questions: how many people have been incarcerated based on the false lab results and how will this scandal impact cases that have already been resolved, especially those where specimen may have been destroyed.

While it is likely that the recent disclosure will not affect defendants who pleaded guilty to drug possession, the large number of people who were found guilty based on the fake evidence may face the possibility of an overturned conviction. A criminal conviction based on falsified results can be devastating. Remember, even though marijuana is now legal in the state of New Jersey, it is only legal to possess up to six ounces.

In addition to the penalties, having a record can haunt you for the rest of your life, affecting your reputation, potential job opportunities, and even your current employment. If you have been charged or convicted with possession of marijuana, or any CDS, in the past ten years, call criminal defense lawyer Leon Matchin for help. Mr. Matchin may be able to have your criminal conviction overturned or charges dismissed in light of this recent scandal. Call the Law Office of Leon Matchin at (833) 732-7320 for a free consultation.

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