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What happens to confiscated illegal drugs?

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When the police catch someone in possession of prohibited drugs or controlled substances for which they do not have a prescription, they will usually seize those drugs at the same time that they arrest the individual who possessed them.

Often, what law enforcement officers take from members of the public end up for sale at police auctions or are eligible for redemption by the person who experienced the asset seizure. The items seized by police will also serve as a major source of evidence for the allegations against the person who possessed those items.

If you or someone you know recently got arrested for a drug-related offense, you may wonder what became of the substances that the police seized from them. What do the cops do with prohibited and controlled substances obtained during a search or arrest?

They store them as evidence

Police officers who intend to use specific drugs as a basis for possession or trafficking charges will need to document when they first gain control over those drugs. They will then need to arrange for proper laboratory testing to confirm exactly what those substances are. Proper chemical testing is key to using the possession of a substance as grounds for prosecution.

The remainder of the substances not used in the chemical testing process will end up in a police storage facility. Law enforcement agents and prosecutors will need to carefully maintain a chain of custody for that evidence so that it will be usable in criminal court.

What happens to seized drugs after court?

Once the courts have either dismissed the charges against someone or convicted them, they may determine that it is no longer necessary to continue storing the evidence for the case. At that point, they may order the destruction of the drugs. Some police departments have their own specialized facilities. Others contract with outside businesses to safely dispose of drug evidence in bulk quantities, often through incineration.

How the police handle chemical evidence like the drugs they allegedly seized from someone’s person, vehicle or home, can play a major role in how useful that evidence is in their upcoming criminal case. Reviewing the chain of custody records for the evidence related to your recent drug charges could provide you with the basis for a viable defense strategy.

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