Due to questions about the accuracy of results from the Nassau County, New York crime lab, District Attorney Kathleen Rice contacted 300 inmates on March 24, 2011 via letter informing them that the lab had been shut down and information on lawyers who could help the inmates in their appeal process. DA Rice plans to re-evaluate approximately 3,000 cases before the matter is fully resolved. The lab was shut down due to inaccurate measurements in drug cases-information that was discovered after a judge ordered retesting of forensic evidence in a case involving drunk driving. Crime lab analysis is crucial in drug cases; therefore, the analyst is a major player in the conviction of suspected drug dealers.
Crime lab reports are key components in the conviction of individuals arrested in drug cases. The duties of the crime lab analyst or forensic scientist include processing evidence submitted by investigators including testing of substances for content, weight, pill count and other measurements, and any other pertinent information on the substance that will help determine the appropriate charges in drug cases. For example, in cases involving marijuana, the state crime lab is responsible for weighing the evidence to determine if the charge will be a felony or misdemeanor (and the level of felony if it does meet felony weight).
Crime lab analysts utilize a variety of equipment, tools and principles to test, evaluate, analyze and report on the various illegal substances submitted to them by investigators in drug cases. By conducting and monitoring the tests, the analyst then makes conclusions based on scientific evidence and prepares reports. The crime lab analyst may also be required to testify in court hearings about the findings and the various tests performed.
Forensic crime lab analysts usually work indoors and most work regular business hours. Forensic crime lab analysts work for both the public and private sectors with state and federal governments being the largest employers. Education requirements are a minimum of an associate’s degree in forensic science or another natural science; however, the trend has been moving toward requiring a bachelor’s degree. Crime lab analysts also receive specialized training in specific sub-fields such as drug analysis, firearms, fingerprints, and other areas of evidence processing and investigation.
According to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for crime lab analysts is expected to be approximately 20 percent over the next 7 years-much higher than any other lab analyst careers overall with an average salary of approximately $24.00 per hour. State and federal agencies will be responsible for most of the growth in the hiring sector.
The job of a crime lab analyst is an important component in a criminal conviction. Once the investigators have submitted their evidence for testing, the crime lab technician is the one that ties the case together through analysis, observation, and reporting on the findings. In drug cases, the report from the crime lab technician can determine the level of the charge and the length of the sentence of the individual suspected of the crime. Learn more about state crime labs and criminal justice schools in New York.