Defense Attorneys Allege Prosecutors’ Influence on Police Lab Results
If state attorneys prosecuting crimes in Michigan had influence over police crime lab policy, defendants in medical marijuana cases could be directly affected. Two well-known defense attorneys are alleging the crime lab run by state police received improper input from the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, a claim generated by emails that have gone public. For defendants, it may mean the difference between a felony and misdemeanor charge.
Changes in Crime Lab Policy
A qualified criminal defense attorney in Michigan can see how interaction between prosecutors and the police’s forensic unit can influence charges eventually filed. In this case, changes in policy over how medical marijuana is classified – as plant-based or synthetic – are at the heart of the matter.
Following the passage of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 and the rise of synthetic (i.e., manmade) THC, the police crime lab began reporting this substance as a Schedule 1 narcotic, punishable as a felony. However, a wide latitude was given to describe substances as THC, and it has become an issue where some plant-based products punishable by misdemeanor can be now be classified as synthetic and therefore open to felony charges.
When crime lab technicians cannot determine the origin of the substance, they may classify it as a synthetic, even when there is a strong likelihood the substance is plant-based. Contact between state prosecutors and the police lab shows an even more troubling problem.
Contact Between Police and Prosecutors
Michigan defense lawyers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over conduct surrounding this change in policy. According to emails the attorneys found through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), police scientists mentioned several problems with classifying unknown substances as THC, in one case describing it as “going out on a limb” to do so.
In fact, a qualified criminal defense attorney in Michigan is aware how rare it is to see synthetics in cases because THC is so expensive to manufacture. Despite the objection of the crime lab technicians, prosecutors now have the power to charge defendants with a felony when the law would rightfully consider it a misdemeanor. Police maintain there was no influence from prosecutors in changing its policy.
If the lawyers’ objection to the national agency funding Michigan’s police crime lab is successful, state residents may see a well-defined separation between prosecutors and the scientists handling evidence they use in cases. Until then, defendants will have to depend on a vigorous defense from lawyers familiar with the finer points of this law.
It takes a top criminal defense attorney in Michigan to see the big picture in every case. Contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, one of the leading law firms in Michigan when you need a qualified defense. For further information or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.