Crisco v. State

In Crisco v. State, 328 Ark. 388, 943 S.W.2d 582 (1997) the supreme court reversed a conviction for possession of methamphetamine where the arresting officer described the seized substance as an off-white powder, and the forensic chemist described it as a tan, rock-like substance. The chemist further testified that he would not have described the substance as an off-white powder and that it would not have changed colors. The supreme court stated: "In the case before us, Crisco hinges his contention of lack of authenticity on the fact that Officer Hanes's description of the drugs differed significantly from that of the chemist, Michael Stage, in color and consistency. In fact, the chemist admitted that he would not have described the substance as off-white powder. Crisco's point has merit. True, there was no obvious break in the chain of custody of the envelope containing the plastic bag or conclusive proof that any tampering transpired. Yet, the marked difference in the description of the substance by Officer Hanes and the chemist leads us to the conclusion that there is a significant possibility that the evidence tested was not the same as that purchased by Officer Hanes. See Munnerlyn v. State, supra, 264 Ark. 928, 576 S.W.2d 714 (1979). This is especially so when we consider that the drug involved is a readily interchangeable substance. Lee v. State, 326 Ark. 229, 931 S.W.2d 433 (1996) Under these circumstances, where the substance at issue has been described differently by the undercover officer and the chemist, we believe the State was required to do more to establish the authenticity of the drug tested than merely trace the route of the envelope containing the substance. We hold that the trial court abused its discretion by receiving a substance into evidence that was not properly authenticated." (328 Ark. at 392, 943 S.W.2d at 584-585.)