Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Criminal Practice – Evidence – Forensic Chemist – Lab Tests – Accreditation

Criminal Practice – Evidence – Forensic Chemist – Lab Tests – Accreditation

State v. McDonald (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-07-1015, 13 pp.) (Robert C. Hunter, J.) Appealed from Cabarrus County Superior Court. (Theodore S. Royster, J.) N.C. App. Click here for the full-text opinion.

Holding: Even though the crack cocaine seized from defendant was not identified in a certified lab, it was identified by an expert in forensic chemistry who followed the same procedures used by law enforcement in a lab licensed by the SBI and the DEA. The trial court did not commit plain error in allowing the state’s expert witness to testify to the results of his chemical analysis of the substance seized from defendant.

We find no error in defendant’s conviction for felony possession of cocaine.

Defendant argues that H.T. Raney’s testing procedures, policies, and protocols were not established by the state to be reliable or generally accepted in the scientific community. Specifically, defendant notes, there was no testimony that the tests were performed in accordance with rules or procedures adopted by the State Bureau of Investigation, or that the tests were conducted by a laboratory accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). Defendant further argues that because Raney’s lab, NarTest, is not accredited by the ASCLD/LAB or any accrediting organization, it is impossible to know whether the forensic testing conducted at NarTest was sufficiently reliable for the evidence to be admissible. We disagree.

Although the NarTest laboratory is not accredited by ASCLD/LAB or another accrediting organization, defendant has provided no legal authority establishing that such accreditation is required when the forensic chemist who conducted the analysis of the alleged controlled substance testifies at trial. Here, the testing analyst’s testimony established the laboratory in which the analysis was conducted is licensed both by the state and the DEA to perform analytical testing on Schedule I through IV controlled substances; the tests performed on the substance seized from defendant were the same tests performed at the SBI laboratory when identifying controlled substances; the tests were performed on the same equipment that is used by the SBI laboratory;  and  the testing methodology used by the analyst is accepted by the forensic community worldwide.

Any doubts as to the validity of Raney’s analysis or his conclusions should have been addressed during defendant’s cross-examination of the expert witness. Defendant’s argument is overruled.

Finally, since the testing analyst testified at trial and was subject to cross-examination by defendant, G.S. § 8-58.20(b) does not control the admission of the expert’s lab report.

No error.

Top Legal News

See All Top Legal News


See All Commentary