October 26, 2020 Feature

Pandemic Disruptions to Forensic Crime Labs Present Opportunities for Permanent Change

Andrea L. Moseley

The pandemic has caused one of the most unforgettable and extreme interruptions in the functioning of the criminal justice system that I have experienced in my 21 years as a criminal defense attorney. Like so many other parts of our justice system, forensic crime labs have experienced a wide variety of changes as a result of this ongoing pandemic. If the opportunity is seized, some of the forced adjustments crime labs have made during this long pause in regular business could be beneficial to criminal defendants in the long run. This is an opportune time to examine how the pandemic has and is currently affecting the essential tasks of analyzing fingerprints, ballistics, DNA, chemicals, drugs, and other vital forensic evidence. It is not known whether the changes impacting crime labs are temporary or permanent alterations of the landscape upon which they operate. While it may be too soon to fully appreciate the long-term effects on crime labs, some trends have begun to emerge.

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