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Drug charges depend on crime lab accuracy

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2015 | Drug Charges

The filing of charges in a drug case can move slowly. In order for prosecutors to file charges, they need to be certain that substances suspected of being illegal drugs, in fact, are illegal drugs. It is the work of a crime lab to make that determination. A case involving an Iowa City tobacco storeowner that began almost 14 months ago, in May of 2014, has finally led to numerous drug related charges being filed in September of 2015.

One reason for the lack of speed in the filing of charges may be due to the amount of material seized during the raid on the store. The complaint detailed that 945 packages were taken from the “Happy Daze” tobacco store. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation lab confirmed the packages contained synthetic cannabinoid.

There was a total of 9,800 grams of suspected synthetic drugs seized during the raid and a crime lab analysis of that much material must be done with care and precision. This is not always the case, and numerous crime labs throughout the nation have been involved in scandals.

Technicians at these labs were found to have been sloppy in their test procedures or in some cases, not bothered to test the materials at all.

In a case like this one from Iowa City, virtually the entire prosecution’s case rests on the accuracy of the drug tests done by the lab.

If the test results are compromised or questionable, it frequently means dismissal of the case, as there is no longer any valid evidence of a crime.

Iowa does not appear to have suffered such a scandal, but it is essential to always carefully examine the qualifications of the technicians and procedures followed, to determine if the prosecution’s case has scientific support.

Source:, “Former tobacco shop owner faces drug charges,” Lee Hermiston, The Gazette, September 9, 2015