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If it looks like meth, it might as well be meth, Utah appeals court rules

Posted at 10:15 AM, Oct 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-09 16:02:22-04

SALT LAKE CITY — If it looks like methamphetamine, it might as well be methamphetamine. At least for the purposes of a preliminary hearing, the Utah Court of Appeals has ruled.

In a ruling issued over the weekend, the Utah Court of Appeals reversed a judge’s decision to toss a drug case against a St. George woman after it was revealed police did not scientifically test a substance found in her possession. Instead, the court determined that there was enough circumstantial evidence to proceed to trial.

“Because the circumstantial evidence of drug identity was, in this case, sufficient to constitute probable cause that (Kaitlin) Homer possessed methamphetamine, we reverse,” Utah Court of Appeals Judge Ryan Harris wrote.

In 2015, Kaitlin Homer was arrested outside her father’s home and police found syringes and a baggie containing a “light crystal substance.” The officer testified he believed it was methamphetamine, but admitted he did not field test it to determine if it was, in fact, the illicit drug.

The judge hearing the case refused to bind Homer over for trial on the drug charge, and prosecutors appealed the decision. In its ruling, the appeals court judges said the standard at a preliminary hearing is low and suggested prosecutors could present any scientific evidence they have at trial.

“Undoubtedly, the State’s case would have been stronger if it had included scientific evidence (field test results or, better yet, more definitive results from the State Crime Lab) that the substance found in Homer’s backpack was in fact methamphetamine. But such scientific evidence is not a necessary condition, in every case, of bindover at the preliminary hearing stage,” Judge Harris wrote.

Read the Utah Court of Appeals ruling here: