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North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys

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New Policy on Drug Analysis After NC Supreme Court Ruling

North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation has adopted a new policy for analyzing drug evidence from crimes. The change was initiated after the North Carolina Supreme Court decided that visual inspection rather than chemical testing of drugs was inadequate.

In an email released by the SBI this week, Ann Hamlin, a special agent for the SBI drug lab, stated that the lab will now conduct chemical analysis on all felony and misdemeanor drug charge cases.

The controversy stemmed from testimony provided to the North Carolina Supreme Court by an SBI chemist in a drug conviction appeal in June. Special Agent Irvin Lee Allcox, a long-time SBI chemist, stated that the SBI lab would sometimes only analyze the physical characteristics of the drug in identification rather than performing chemical analysis. Allcox further testified that he believed counterfeit drug tablets could be easily identified from authentic tablets because of differences in shape, color and markings.

Additionally, Allcox stated that the SBI lab lacked the resources to perform chemical analysis on all of the drugs. Instead, the lab would limit chemical testing to felony cases and perform visual testing on misdemeanor cases. However, the case that Allcox was testifying for was a felony case, and some of the drugs had been identified visually.

The Court ruled that the visual inspection of drugs was not sufficiently reliable, and remanded the case for additional proceedings.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Roy Cooper was uncertain how many drug cases would be affected by the Court's decision at this time.

Source: TimesUnion.com "NC SBI alters policy on drug analysis after ruling" 8/19/10 

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