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Hicksville Woman's DWI Conviction Tossed Amid Crime Lab Woes

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- It's the first of what could be many such cases in Nassau County -- a new trial ordered because of evidence that may have been mishandled by the police run crime lab.

Shoddy work, cutting corners, cover ups and tainted evidence were just some of the accusations that forced the closure of the lab last month, reports CBS 2's Sean Hennessey.

On Monday the fallout continued when a judge citing "testing misfeasance" and "potentially tainted evidence" set aside the drunken conviction of Erin Marino, who plowed another vehicle while drunk -- her blood alcohol more than twice the legal limit.

"I don't think anyone really realized the extent of the problems of the crime lab," defense attorney Brian Griffin said.

Marino was not in court during the ruling, but Griffin said she would obviously be relieved, 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reported.

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Marino is getting a new trial. The evidence will be retested, and she's not alone. The case against Kayla Gerdes may be affected, too. Gerdes is the teen accused of killing a senior last year while driving high on drugs -- drugs also tested at the Nassau County police crime lab.

"We'll be looking to suppress those results," attorney John R. Lewis said.

Gerdes' lawyer said the misconduct at the lab calls into question the court's confidence.

"Is there a strong enough chain of custody to the evidence linking any specific client, not just Kayla, to show when they go retesting to show this was actually the drugs that were on that person?" Lewis said.

The decision sets the stage for other defendants with evidence tested by the lab to mount challenges.

"Hundreds, countless are waiting to file," said Bill Kephart, president of the Nassau County Courts Bar Association.

"This has the potential to open up the flood gate," added Paul Delle, chairman of the Criminal Court Law and Procedure Committee.

Defense attorney Delle is on a committee working to make sure this never happens again and said the questionable evidence will now force prosecutors to deal.

"In lieu of giving a person's plea back or trying a case again, resolving it with an even more favorable plea," Delle said.

It's unknown exactly when these problems began or what the cost to taxpayers will be to retry and resolve cases that are sure to be challenged.

The lab was cited for 23 instances of misconduct. The extent of the problem is now being investigated by the inspector general.

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