In Melendez-Diaz, the Supreme Court held that the information in laboratory technician reports can only be introduced against a criminal defendant if the person has had the opportunity to cross-examine the lab tech who did the testing.
This has created an outcry among prosecutors and others. (See previous coverage on the topic on this blog here and here). Admittedly, the decision is a change in the way business has been done in our criminal courts. Such a change is bound to be met with resistance, because it will create more work for the government to convict people.
I received an email from a friend of mine about the effect of Melendez-Diaz on the war on drugs. Drug prosecutions work only because they are able to be done in volume. If the defendants refuse to plead, and prosecutors have to call lab techs, they can quickly overrun the system such that drug prosecutions will quickly become rare.
One writer argues that Melendez-Diaz is a bad idea because,
The proliferation of drug arrests would cripple our state toxicology laboratory if a witness were required in every drug trial. In nearly all instances, the testing is reliable so requiring the toxicologist to appear is no more than a formality. It’s rare where a legitimate challenge can be raised to the reliability of a particular drug screening.
I think this is wrong; Melendez-Diaz is good policy for two reasons. I’ll explain what they are, after the jump.
If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges or Washington DC federal criminal charges.
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