Audit: Guns, drugs at risk of being stolen under evidence practices in Utah courts

Stock image, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Evidence such as drugs and guns is at risk of being stolen while the items are stored in the Utah court system, according to a state report.

A state audit of six district courts and three juvenile courts found inadequate procedures to safeguard and track evidence, the Deseret News reported Wednesday. The courts examined were not named in the audit.

“The court system’s current tools and evidence management practices are not adequate to implement the needed level of evidence security,” State Auditor John Dougall said.

The state auditor’s office found that some courts failed to take regular inventories of items, use security measures like alarms and cameras, or control and record access to the evidence.

Also, the polices for handling and securing the evidence during court proceedings are not clear, creating the potential for items to be lost, stolen or tampered with, auditors wrote. When hearings or trials are occurring, some bailiffs store the evidence in nearby closets.

The report states that guns and drugs that are no longer needed in court and are waiting to be destroyed have the greatest likelihood of being stolen. Auditors found that some courts did not have records of evidence disposal or improperly labeled items as destroyed or released.

“Failure to provide adequate management controls and procedures may lead to lost, stolen or compromised evidence as well as a loss of public trust,” auditors wrote.

State Courts Administrator Mary Noonan said evidence rooms have now been secured and courts are drafting policies for evidence handling.

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