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Internal FBI report finds agents often mishandle, lose evidence

This could be good news for a lot of defendants, and a real headache for their prosecutors.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted an internal investigation into its evidence collection and retention processes, and the findings, obtained by The New York Times, do not paint a particularly competent picture. The FBI found that agents often mishandle, mislabel, and even lose evidence; the audit discovered one piece of evidence from a drug case that has been signed out of storage since 2003. In all, the investigation found errors with nearly half of the 41,000 pieces of evidence it reviewed; because that is a sample of the bureau's actual total evidence cache, the real number of mishandled items is likely much higher.

On Friday, the FBI began contacting prosecutors, because lawyers are able to use record-keeping errors as grounds for throwing evidence out of court. The agency's chief spokesman said the bureau would begin "strengthening procedures in field offices across the country to improve administrative consistency," as a result of the probe.