COA affirms admitted drug test lab results in CHINS case

The admission of positive drug test results under the business-records exception was affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals in a Monday child in need of services case, despite a father’s argument that admission of the evidence was erroneous.

Parents J.B. and D.B. were arrested after Columbus police officers responded to a report of theft at a local Target that included several electronic products. When officers stopped the couple’s vehicle, they found the stolen items, syringes and a bent spoon, as well as a child in a car seat.

During interviews after their arrest, D.B. admitted that the spoon was J.B.’s and that he preferred to snort his methamphetamine instead. Likewise, J.B. told a Department of Child Services family case manager that D.B. used marijuana.

Their child was subsequently alleged to be a child in need of services and during the fact-finding hearing, both parents admitted to using marijuana during the pendency of the CHINS case. Meanwhile, the Bartholomew Circuit Court admitted lab reports from Forensic Fluids showing the results of the parents’ positive oral-fluid drug tests under the business-records exception of Indiana Evidence Rule 803(6).

After his child was adjudicated a CHINS and the parents were ordered to participate in services, D.B. appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting the lab reports under the business-records exemption in CHINS: D. B., et al. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 19A-JC-02228.

In affirming the trial court, the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed with holdings in In re L.S., 125 N.E.3d 628, 634 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), noting that Forensic Fluids does depend on the lab reports to operate and that the L.S. panel did not consider two other indicators of reliability mentioned by the Indiana Supreme Court in the case of In re E.T., 808 N.E.2d 639, 642-43 (Ind. 2003).

“…(B)ecause Forensic Fluids depends, at least in part, on the lab reports to operate, the lab reports are subject to federal review and internal checks, and the lab reports are created for every result rendered by Forensic Fluids, we find that the trial court did not err by admitting the lab reports under the business-records exception,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the appellate court.

It likewise found that because no objection was made to the trial court, the trial court did not err by admitting the lab reports for lack of chain of custody. Lastly, the appellate court found there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction and ultimately affirmed the CHINS finding.

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