Monday, September 23, 2013

Can new evidence help an old case?

Throughout the summer Colorado media outlets have been reporting problems with the state's criminal evidence testing lab at the Department of Health (formally known as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, or CDPHE).  The CDPHE for example tests blood samples taken in connection with DUI cases.  Based on an independent investigation report, it seems the lab boss was biased for the prosecution, that lab techs were inadequately trained, and that required lab protocols were not being followed, among a host of other problems.  In short, the lab tests could not (and some say still cannot) be trusted.

What about all the DUI cases that went down before this new information about the lab came to light?  Many people accused of that and other crimes went to trial and were convicted based on faulty supposedly scientific evidence against them.

Fortunately the state's rules of criminal procedure (i.e. the rules that help guide when and how the government can proceed against your life, liberty and property) provide a remedy.  Rule 33 (similar to the federal Rule 33) allows a defendant to ask the court for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.  Of course there are certain restrictions - like the evidence really has to be new, be of significance to the issues, the defendant has to show he tried to get helpful evidence sooner, and the request must be accompanied by an affidavit (explaining for example why the evidence is new).  The request should be granted if it is in the "interests of justice" to do so.

There is no time limit for seeking a new trial using this rule, other than that it should be done soon once the evidence (its nature, scope, significance etc.) comes to light.  A similar process may be available for cases that pled, that is, where the defendant took a deal (based on bad evidence?) instead of going to trial (by far, most defendants plead their cases).

So pass it along, and if you or someone you know needs help, give us a call.

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