Lab Reports Are Testimonial Evidence- Melendez-Diaz v. Mass

[6/25/09 – 12:49 pm] In a 5-4 decision released this morning, the United States Supreme Court ruled that laboratory reports related to the testing of controlled dangerous substances at a police laboratory are to be considered as testimonial evidence within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment. As a result, a criminal defendant has the right at trial to personally confront the maker of the laboratory report on confrontation clause grounds.

The Court’s holding, written by Justice Scalia, is a continuation of Sixth Amendment jurisprudence that began five years ago with the publication of Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). The decision is entirely consistent with current New Jersey law which also considers such evidence testimonial in nature in a wide variety of contexts. (See generally, State v. Berezansky, 386 N.J. Super. 84 (App. Div. 2006) (Lab results of a DWI Blood test); State v. Renshaw, 390 N.J. Super. 456 (App. Div. 2007) (Requiring testimony of person who drew blood sample from intoxicated defendant) and State v. Kent, 391 N.J. Super. 352 (App. Div. 2007) (Requiring the defendant to put the state on notice that the lab tech will be required to appear to testify in court)

Download a copy of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.

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